Why are locations so meaningful?

Where were you born? Where did you grow up? Where did you go to college? Where do you work? Where do you live?

Locations give us a sense of identity. They represent who we are, where we come from, and who we want to be. Our hometown, state, or country tells others about the culture, values, and people that have surrounded us in our life. It’s where our mom, dad, brothers, and sisters are from. It’s where we learned to walk, talk, and ride a bike for the first time. It’s an ode to our first kisses, first loves, and all the firsts in-between.

We wear our locations with pride – showcasing our team’s colors and mascots. We cheer for our teams in the big game, celebrate the wins, and commiserate the losses. Locations provide unmistakable bonds with these people in collective shared experience. It gives us things to talk about, commonalities, and (in some cases) differences from the rest of the world.

These locations that make up who we are carry so much meaning in life. Chockfull of memories, we remember these locations with fondness, happiness, and sometimes sadness. And it’s the unique combination of locations that create the incredible phenomenon that is the individual.

Where were you married? Where were your kids born? Where do you vacation? Where do you travel?

Locations are significant. There’s a reason people look to vacation spots with a sense of fondness – a reason why they keep coming back. Being in a location can call upon a specific memory, remind you of better times, or create an unmistakable feeling of bliss.

A lot of times we recall the location of a significant life event. You remember the church you were married, the hospital where you met your first born, and the cabin you rented for your annual family vacation.

Other times, we become nostalgic of a place. It holds meaning that we were once there with the people we loved. Sometimes those people pass on and these locations hold that much more meaning to us.

Where were you when John F. Kennedy was shot? When the Challenger exploded? On September 11, 2001?

Locations provide perspective. Our feelings of where we were when these significant world events took place are engrained in our minds. It was a time when the world felt as one, emotions were strong, and our differences were in our location at the time.

Where we were when these events happened gives us perspective. It’s a talking point, a difference in point of view between strangers. Yet these locations bind us. Every American citizen felt the same the day President Kennedy was shot as they did the day two hijacked planes flew into the Twin Towers.

Where are you going? Where will you end up? Where will you retire?

Locations keep us looking ahead. We look for places to be added to our bucket lists. They give us something to look forward to, a sense of hope, and promise of the future. We get excited to plan new trips, or move to a new place. We cannot see the future, but we look to it with optimism at the chance of visiting lands unknown.

Sometimes where we end up in life is exactly where we started, but it’s ultimately our choice. We look forward to retirement in a favorite spot, or returning to our hometown we love so much. They can provide us with as much stability as they can excitement at different times in our life.

Where will your ashes be scattered?

Locations provide a place of rest. We look to specific locations at the end of our life. They are where we are buried, where our ashes are scattered, or where our remains are kept.

These locations hold the ultimate meaning to us – and to those we leave behind. They encompass where we’ve been, where we are, (and sometimes) where we want to be. When cremated, our final resting place is up to us. And that is why it’s increasingly important to have the conversation early and often with your loved ones on where you want your ashes scattered.

Locations are important. Don’t let your ash scattering site be forgotten. To create your Wishsite, or to record a loved one’s Scattersite, please visit mapalife.com

Ash Scattering Advice: Do’s & Don’ts

Scattering the ashes of a loved one and understanding the “how-to’s” of the practice can be overwhelming – especially if this is your first time scattering ashes and others are attending the ceremony with you. Losing a loved one is an emotional and, at times, exhausting experience. If the deceased asked you to scatter his or her ashes somewhere of personal significance, the last thing you need is more stress as you contemplate carrying out such a meaningful task. This article aims to provide insight into how to prepare leading up to the ash scattering, as well as ease any concerns you have regarding the actual event.

But first, let us touch on the frequency of scattering cremated remains. To better understand the needs of families during the funeral process, Mapalife recently administered a US nationwide survey asking people about their experience with cremation. One key takeaway was the frequency of which people were being scattered. Of 649 respondents surveyed (all of whom had been involved with a friend or relatives cremation), 27% reported that their loved one had their ashes scattered in one location, while an additional 10% had their remains scattered in multiple locations.

With 48.6% of US deaths leading to cremation in 2015, our sample size suggests that of the 2,626,418 people who passed away in 2015, over 470,000 had their remains scattered. Clearly, ash scattering has become a relatively commonplace type of memorial celebration (one that doesn’t seem to get the discussion its popularity warrants). To help ensure that all goes as well as it could, let’s cover some of the “Do’s” and “Don’ts” of ash scattering.

DO…

  • Do get permission from the property owner if scattering on someone else’s private property.
  • Do perform a little research on state and local scattering regulations if scattering on public property.
    • Nolo.com is one of our favorite online resources. To quickly understand your state’s stance on scattering remains, go here, select your state, and scroll down to the section titled “Where can we store or scatter ashes after cremation?”
  • Do check with the Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act (MPRSA) if scattering at sea. It requires that you scatter more than 3 nautical miles from land and submit a burial at sea form. The MPRSA does not apply to lakes, rivers or other inland waters. Seeing as some states prohibit the scattering of ashes in local bodies of water, we recommend you contact your state DNR agency to ensure that all regulations are followed.
  • Do check the weather, and think through what you would do if there is subpar weather on the day you planned a memorial with friends and family. Rain, snow, or even fog can affect the release of ashes.
  • Do consider wearing gloves when handling the ashes. While cremated remains (which technically are pulverized bone fragments, not ashes) pose absolutely no threat to your health, handling them can leave residue on your hands that you may have a hard time wiping off without water.   
  • Do decide on scattering details ahead of time. While “scattering” is the term used when placing someone’s ashes in nature, there are different ways to perform the act. In addition to water release or scattering on the ground, remains can be raked or trenched into the ground.

DON’T…

  • Don’t scatter in a busy public area without prior permission. While this opera-enthusiast may have been nobly trying to follow through on his mentor’s last wish, don’t do this (and since we’re on the topic…we don’t recommend doing this or this either).  
  • Don’t have ashes blown your way. If scattering remains by throwing into the air (also known as casting), be sure to release the remains downwind.
  • Don’t leave home without the remains (especially if travelling far). The last thing you want is to arrive at the location, get set up…and then discover the deceased’s ashes were left behind. Also: check with your funeral home for proper storage and transportation of remains prior to the scattering. 
  • Don’t forget the location. According to our survey data, 63% of people want to know the location where relatives were scattered. Marking the location with unique GPS coordinates on Mapalife is an easy (and free) way to share this significant place with friends and family.

For more helpful advice on how to plan an ash scattering ceremony, check out our other blog post here.

Planning Your Cremation

Thinking and talking about your death is a difficult and frequently unnatural thing to do, but more and more medical and financial experts are encouraging people to think through their final disposition wishes and make their wishes known to family members.

This article is for the growing number of people who have decided that they want to be cremated. While surely not all-encompassing, the below can serve as a starting point to get both you and your family prepared ahead of time.

Initial Considerations

Personal preference should ultimately be your guiding force, however there are several factors that will influence the decision-making surrounding your cremation process.

  • Religious background – If you’ve already decided to be cremated, then you likely aren’t Eastern Orthodox, Muslim, or Mormon. While many religions in the past few decades have softened their stance on cremation, several (Catholic included) have preferences for how ashes are handled. If you’re unsure, we recommend that you reach out to your local religious leader.
  • Funeral service preference – Cremation provides flexibility since there is no need to hold a funeral service immediately following a death. The exception to this is if you prefer to hold a funeral service with the body present prior to being cremated. Otherwise, your choice is between direct cremation or cremation followed by a memorial service at a later (more convenient) date.
  • State regulations – Cremation laws vary at the US state and local level. Certain states ban funeral homes from running crematoriums, while other states mandate that a funeral home oversee the cremation process (i.e. consumers cannot go directly to a crematorium). Unfortunately (but not surprisingly), the $20 billion funeral industry has it’s fair share of convoluted regulation. To understand what laws may impact you, we recommend you check out Nolo’s state by state glance at funeral laws and disposition laws.
  • Cost considerations – While cremation is generally less expensive than traditional burial, your funeral bill can quickly increase depending on your desires for funeral services and memorial products. It is encouraged to shop around on price, as similar services can cost thousands of dollars more (or less) at different locations. The 2015 NFDA Cremation and Burial Report was kind enough to share data on 2014 median funeral homes costs.

funeral costs

*It’s worth noting that the 2014 NFDA report highlighted (in the states that allow it) that direct cremation was significantly less expensive ($1,300 instead of $2,200) at direct cremation providers compared to NFDA full-service funeral homes. For those hoping to become a savvy consumer in the funeral industry, we encourage you to read the ten tips given by the Funeral Consumers Alliance. And for those who need help financing the costs of a funeral, check out this helpful article on cost considerations for widowed spouses. 

Choosing a Final Resting Place

Many who are cremated will end up in a cemetery – either buried in a grave with a cremation casket or entombed in a columbarium with an urn. However, the popularity of cemeteries seems to be decreasing while the rate of cremation increases. One study by FAMIC, the Funeral and Management Information Council, found that the percentage of US adults who owned cemetery property decreased from 50% in 2010 to 34% in 2015. Cremation gives people the ability to be unique with their final resting place – with growing popularity in scattering remains, creating keepsake items out of cremated remains, or simply keeping the ashes at home.

FYI: Mapalife is here to fill an unmet need in the funeral industry. The majority of family members want to know the final resting place of their relatives. In the very near future, people will be able to add long-lasting visibility to a loved one’s unique final resting place by creating a Scattersite page and sharing the GPS coordinates with family and friends.

Making Your Plan Known

You know you want to be cremated, you understand the (main) regulations that govern the cremation process, and you have an idea of where you want to be laid to rest. The next step is telling your family. Communicating wishes with regards to disposition method, memorial service, and finances can reduce the pressure during an already difficult time for your family.

While it doesn’t hurt to include your funeral wishes in your will, it likely won’t help much either. Wills are meant to communicate who inherits your property (land and otherwise) and may not be reviewed soon enough to help guide the funeral process. A better alternative is to create a formal document (separate from your will) that details your funeral wishes. A simple document that communicates your preference on the below items is a good start, however Funeral Inspirations makes an exhaustive (and free) funeral planner:

  • Disposition method (cremation or burial)
  • Preferred cremation location
  • Funeral service (with your body present) or memorial service (without your body)
  • Final resting place (buried or entombed in a cemetery, scattered in a personally significant location, kept at home, or something more adventurous)

Creating a funeral planning document is a great start to making your wishes known, but to minimize potential confusion it is best to review the document with your family. You’re likely a great person and thus your passing will be an emotional and stressful time for your family. Deciding on how you want to leave this earth, and then communicating those wishes, will make it a little bit easier for your family during an already hard time.  

The Growing Cremation Trend – What Does It Mean?

The Cremation Trend

Google “cremation” on the New York Times website and you get 8,730 results. Dig a little deeper and you’ll find that these stories range from cremation guidelines issued from the Vatican to a feature story on a popular Queens columbarium. While this may not seem like a sexy topic for news writers to be focusing on, it is an undeniable trend in disposition that is gaining traction and attention in American culture.

By the year 2030, cremation rates in the United States are expected to top out at 71%, according to one NFDA study. So people are wondering – what does this mean? Why are Americans choosing to be cremated as opposed to traditional burial, and what are the implications of this choice?

Environment

Alternative methods of disposition are nothing new to the funeral industry. For years, people have been presented with a variety of disposition methods at the funeral home. This includes traditional burial, donating body to science, green burials, and more. Yet, none of these options have grown in popularity as quickly as cremation. The Cremation Association of North America (CANA) identifies the desire to save land as one of the top reasons for this rising trend.

So if people are choosing cremation to save land, how does the carbon footprint of cremation compare to that of a casket burial? According to the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) conducted in the Netherlands, cremation has half the environmental impact of a casket burial. This is mainly due to the maintenance of the burial grounds and decomposition over time. Considering 13% of consumers choose cremation to save land space, the upward cremation trend is congruent with consumers heightened awareness of their environmental impact.

Society

It is no secret that the Catholic Church has been making recent headlines in regards to its newly developed stance on cremation practices. In a nutshell, they have announced that burials (whether casket or cremated) are the preferred method of handling remains. They are not prohibiting cremation, but they have indicated that they do not support scattering of cremains in lieu of burial.

The Catholic Church readdressing it’s stance on cremation is one indication that the cremation trend is growing not just in the USA, but worldwide. However, cremation is not a new phenomena. Scholars believe that cremation has been a practice in some form since the Early Stone Age in 3000 B.C. Although it wasn’t until the year 1874 that the first known crematoriums were officially opened in Woking, England and Gotha, Germany.

Cremation has long been standard practice in many Asian and European countries, with Japan leading the way at an astounding 99.9% cremation rate in 2014. While later to adopt, the USA has experienced a major recent growth in cremation, boasting a substantial 25.4% increase from 1996 – 2014.

Cremation Trend

Changing Perspective

It may seem like this cremation trend happened overnight, but in reality, many factors have aligned to cause a shift in perspective. According to CANA, some of these factors include:

  •       Cremation has become more socially acceptable
  •       Ties to tradition are becoming weaker
  •       Religious restrictions are diminishing
  •       Families prefer more memorial service flexibility

Combine these with the fact that 30% of people choose cremations over burials to save money, and it becomes quite obvious why cremation rates are growing at a rate of 1-2% every year.

Speaking of money, it happens to be the biggest motivating factor for people choosing cremation. This should come as no surprise since the average price for a direct cremation (at a funeral home) is $2,260, compared to an average funeral and burial cost of $7,181. It should be noted that direct cremations are very cost-effective because families are opting for cremation only, instead of including a funeral service and burial.

This cremation trend indicates that families are choosing to conduct their own forms of memorialization through celebrations of life and other means of remembrance. Money saved by doing a direct cremation can provide families with more funds to support these new traditions. Many people also find that ashes can provide for creativity in the grieving process. While scattering cremains or creating cremation jewelry are well-established options, society has gotten more imaginative. One can now be made into a firework, launched in a helium balloon, or sent even higher with a one way ticket into outer space.

The Future

At Mapalife, we believe this growing cremation trend is good for our planet and is good for us – enhancing the memorial process while also reducing the cost of a funeral. Whether ashes are buried, scattered, or planted with a tree, cremation allows us to celebrate and memorialize our loved ones in unique and meaningful ways.

As society and the funeral industry embrace this new form of disposition, we are going to see an increase in our ability to celebrate life. New traditions and celebrations will become commonplace. Our land and planet will appreciate the reduced burial burden. And most importantly, the locations and memories that mean most to us will live on through new forms of memorialization.