Aug 222008

I’ve occasionally talked about my previous career working in the funeral service. Given that, any article about funeral homes tends to catch my eye, as did this AP report about unclaimed cremation ashes at funeral homes.

In the story they talk about how some funeral homes have storage spaces overflowing with the cremated remains of people that are never claimed. I know at the funeral where I worked in Greensboro, we had a closet full, and that was over 20 years ago.

Cremation Urn Most states have laws or regulations allowing funeral homes to eventually dispose of cremains, but some states don’t have anything. This means funeral homes really have to keep the ashes or face litigation later.

I don’t even remember if we had regulations in North Carolina, but I know that most of the funeral homes I know of would never dispose of cremains, and would hold them forever.

The sad part of the story is that these represent people that once lived and had some impact on the world. I guess most were loved by someone. How is it that you wind up at the end of your life with no one who cares enough to at least claim your ashes and scatter them.

I hope I’m never in that boat.

I suppose it has always been hard for me to understand because I come from a southern background where a life is acknowledged after death with a wake, a funeral, and usually a graveside service. I think I don’t so much like the recent trend of “disposal.”

Humankind has a need for rituals and recognition of significant life events. Nearly every culture, no matter how primitive or advanced, develops rituals around life’s major events, and most observe some sort of ritual related to death. I think it would our loss to give these up. We have a chance to share the grieving process,and celebrate and at least acknowledge a person’s life.

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