Consumers in these tough economic times are cutting back in nearly every aspect of life.
Death, it seems, is no exception.
Cremations, which can be several thousand dollars cheaper than a traditional funeral and burial, are becoming a more popular option for families.
"Yes sir, it's been on the rise," said Steven Yepez, a longtime funeral director at Reeves Funeral Home in Hope Mills. "I've noticed the last couple of years, it has kind of really increased."
He recalled that one month earlier this year, nearly every service the funeral home handled was a cremation.
Bob Sullivan, funeral director at Sullivan's Highland Funeral Service and Crematory, said interest in cremations as an option "has changed rapidly" along with the economy.
"People don't have the money to spend like they once had," he said.
Nationally, the numbers show that cremations are narrowing the gap as a choice for arrangements over traditional burial.
A decade ago, cremations accounted for about 26 percent of services in the U.S., said Jessica Koth, a spokeswoman for the National Funeral Directors Association.
By 2010, the cremation rate stood at 41 percent, she said. Out of nearly 2.5million deaths, about 999,000 cremations were performed.
"We've certainly seen an increase in the rate of cremations over the years," Koth said. "Families choosing cremations continue to go up."
According to the association's data, the average funeral package with a casket service and burial costs $4,335. But the average cost for a casket is another $2,295, and that does not include cemetery-related costs, Koth said.
By comparison, a casket service and cremation costs on average about $4,410, Koth said. A cremation casket can run about $900.
Combustible caskets are built specifically for cremation. The body and cremation container are placed into the crematory unit and burned.
"You can get just as elaborate with a cremation as a burial," Yepez said. "It's really about what the family wants to do to honor their loved one and say goodbye to the loved one. And what is most memorable and appropriate."
Cremation is more common in New England and on the West Coast. The South, Koth said, tends to be a little more traditional, and cremation rates tend to be lower.
For 11 years, Yepez has been a calming presence for the bereaved who come through Reeves Funeral Home. He says the younger generation, more so than their elders, are more accepting of the cremation process. The older generation is inclined to stick with a traditional funeral service and burial.
People are choosing cremation for a variety of reasons.
Some don't want to be buried in the ground. Religious acceptance is another factor. During the 1980s, Koth said, some Christian denominations changed their positions on cremation.
"It was not allowed before that time," she added. "They changed their stance, and it has become an acceptable alternative to burial."
The cost is a driving factor for those who don't want to break the bank.
There is no cost for a the grave plot, which can practically double the expense of a funeral.
Usually, family and friends will hold a memorial service, Sullivan said. Some opt for a viewing of the body before cremation.
"It can be pretty much like a traditional service," he said. "We have rental caskets, and the caskets are used again. You put another insert in it."
Other clients decide on direct cremation. In that case, the family makes its own arrangements.
"This is kind of a private thing," Sullivan said. "Everybody has a different outlook."
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