Death is not the opposite of life, but a part of it. Death is the harsh reality of the world that no human being can ever deny. Yet death is not a reposeful topic to talk about, and that cultural eschewal runs offset to a strong feeling to remember the dead. According to the World Bank report, for every 1,000 people in the world, an average of 7,748 people die each year and 19.349 are born. That is a ratio of about 2.5 births for every death.
There are several ways to deal with the remains of the dead, such as aquamation, burial, burial at sea, entombment, cremation, space burial, mummification and plastination. The process of embalming is so old that it was used by the ancient Egyptians.
In the U.S., it was used during the Civil War. After the funeral of Abraham Lincoln, his body was embalmed, and it became a more general practice. During the late 18th and early 19th century, many funeral homes were known as “funeral parlors.”
Until the 20th century in the U.S, funerals were usually organized by family and neighbors and were held at their homes. People who died were often buried in their family property but with the passage of time this ceremony of caring for departed passed from the family home to the funeral home.
As embalming became more common it took the status of a real profession and burial of the beloved ones was entrusted to the funeral industry. Across the U.S., the Selected Independent Funeral Homes, International Cemetery, Cremation & Funeral Association, National Funeral Directors & Morticians Association, and National Funeral Directors Association are the organizations and associations that are key funeral industry bodies. They teach, support, and help regulate funeral professionals, cremation activity, funeral homes, and cemetery establishments.
With every passing day the trend of funeral is fading and it is experiencing a new transformation due to its high cost. The cost of a funeral has been increasing gradually since the 1980’s. The cost of an average funeral is between $7,000 and $12,000. And it comprises burial fees, embalming, a casket, transferring the remains to the funeral home and many other preparations. Urns and caskets have cost thousands of dollars alone according to the style and material used for them.
In contrast to this, cremation is much less expensive. It generally costs $1,000 to $2,500 which is significantly less than traditional funerals as it does not require caskets, a cemetery, a monument, marker, embalming or other things, such as flowers, although many still do use a few. As cremation saves natural resources, like land for a burial, and wood, it has replaced traditional funeral systems.
A simple cremation is the best solution to the overwhelming burden of funeral expenditure. As compare to burial, in cremation the body is reduced to ashes and bone fragments by using intense heat. The cremated remains can be kept by the family, whether they scatter the ashes or bury them in ground, or entomb in the sea, or integrate the ashes in jewelry, coral reefs, or fireworks, it is their choice.
Cremation seems more economical and simpler; it lets more elasticity in funeral events and also uses less land resources than traditional earth burial. For many people scattering ashes makes them feel like their loved ones are around them all the time and they can even store ashes in a funeral urn.
The high cost of the service and environmental concerns are the major reasons which diverted US families to the cremation process as many families cannot afford the funeral.
It was reported that in 2016, 50.2% of Americans chose cremation, while 43.5% chose burial. Less than 50 years ago, in 1970, just 5% of people chose cremation. Hence the death industry is declining day by day. Another report shows that in 2017, in the United States there were 19,322 funeral homes, a decline from 22,000 just a few years earlier. The number of funeral homes has dropped nearly 10% over a decade. In the last year the number of people being cremated exceeded the number of new burials. If the population continues to increase at the current rate, and as less land is available for burial, the rate of cremation will continue to increase.
According to a report by the National Funeral Directors Association, about 108,000 people are employed in the United States by the funeral industry each year, and about 32,600 people are employed by a cemetery or a crematory. According to The New Republic, about 200 women are presently hired as “death midwives” to help families plan ahead for a home-based funeral.
The American Community Survey shows the number of people employed in the cemeteries and crematories Industry Group and Funeral homes has been growing at a rate of 4.46 percent, from 139000 people in 2017 to 145000 people in 2018.
The thinking and preferences of people are changing so now funeral services are also changing. More people are now selecting to be cremated and want to remain with their loved ones in the form of ash and fewer people need a “traditional” funeral service.