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

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.

How to Plan a Scattering Ceremony in 7 Easy Steps

Cremation opens the door to many new ways of mourning and memorializing those we love. Ashes allow for versatility and creativity in the grieving process. One increasingly popular way to memorialize is through what has been coined a “scattering ceremony.”

These ceremonies are completely up to you and your loved one on how they will be carried out. Most commonly, people choose a meaningful location to hold the ceremony and gather family and friends to take part in the scattering of cremated remains.

Before planning the scattering ceremony, there are several things to consider. We have outlined a simple step-by-step checklist to assist you in planning the perfect scattering ceremony for your beloved.

Download full checklist here

1. Timing
Cremated remains have the flexibility of being stored until the time is right for the scattering ceremony. Take into consideration the time of year, the schedules of those participating in the ceremony, and any significant dates you want to incorporate. You may choose to have multiple ceremonies at different times of year. It is ultimately up to you and the wishes of your loved one when it comes to timing.

Remember to store the ashes in a cool, dry location until the time is right. Check with your local funeral home on best practices and if they have a storage facility you can use until the time is right.

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2. Location
In many cases when cremation is chosen, a person has communicated the wishes of how ashes should be handled or scattered ahead of time. Sometimes, it is up to those left behind to choose the location of significance for the scattering memorial. In either case, the location is an incredibly important component of the ceremony.

A lot of times locations have significant meaning to the deceased. Perhaps it is the site of a favorite fishing spot, or where they spent their summers vacationing with friends and family. Often, people are even more specific with their location. It could be the tree under which they asked their spouse to marry them, or the rock they were sitting on when they were told they would be a parent for the first time.

After the location is chosen, make sure to communicate it to those who will be taking part in the scattering ceremony. Keep in mind that when ashes are scattered in a location that is not private property, it is best practice to check with local scattering laws and regulations.

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3. People
Scattering ceremonies are meant to be time for remembrance and memorializing those who mean the most to us. The people involved in the ceremony will also play a key role in the significance of the ceremony. It may just be you, scattering ashes of your spouse or child in a private ceremony of grief. In other cases, it may make sense to invite family and/or friends in a communal memorialization ceremony.

In either case, take into account the wishes of the deceased and what feels right. Also remember that you can have multiple ceremonies. Perhaps a private scattering ceremony takes place in a location known only to you and the deceased. Later, a more public scattering ceremony could take place in a universally significant place to those invited.

Having additional people take part in the ceremony also allows the organizer to assign roles that assist in the planning. It is common for families to host “celebrations of life” or receptions after scattering ceremonies that may take more time and resources to plan. 

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4. Religion
Choosing to introduce any form of faith into a scattering ceremony is an incredibly personal decision. It is best practice to follow the faith of the deceased, and carry out a ceremony that is aligned with their religious beliefs. If the deceased was not affiliated with a church or faith, you can still find ways to add significance and meaning to the ceremony.

If you’re unsure of the religious practices of the deceased’s faith, one place to start is reaching out to their place of worship. Some faiths may allow you to have a pastor or person of faith to conduct the ceremony. This can add significance and take pressure off of you in the planning process.

If the wishes of the deceased were to have a non-religious ceremony, you can also look into hiring a celebrant to conduct the ceremony. These are usually experienced individuals who can carry out the ceremony in an organized and meaningful way. This is also a role you can assign to an attendee (see above).

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5. Etiquette
Scattering ashes is a relatively new trend that is growing rapidly in popularity. However, not everyone is accustomed to this new tradition, nor have best practices been spelled out for anyone to follow. This can lead to people doing things like this, or unintentionally offending people who are unaware of what is taking place. It is best to do your research and follow a principle of using your best judgment when it comes to how a scattering ceremony will be carried out.

However, there are a few things you can prepare for when carrying out the scattering ceremony. Take into account the intended use of the location. If you are scattering in a public park or place of recreation, it is most considerate to conduct the ceremony in a quieter location in the park, or a time of day that is not that busy. But remember, always check ahead of time with public locations. In some cases, you may be granted special access to these locations to privately conduct your ceremony.

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6. Scattering mode
One of the most important, yet most forgotten about components of a scattering ceremony is how the ashes will actually be transferred to the location. You may be wondering why this matters, but it’s more important than you think. Take the advice of this blogger and consider the logistics of how to physically handle the ashes. Things like wind direction, water, and other elements out of our control will factor into how the ceremony is carried out.

Good news is, with the growing popularity of scattering ceremonies, there are many options available to you in choosing the right scattering mode. Don’t be afraid to get creative, and always consider the wishes of the deceased. Chances are, the mode you choose will make the ceremony that much more meaningful to those who attend.

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7. Make it special
The people and location will make the scattering ceremony the most meaningful, but new tools and traditions can help make your ceremony that much more special in commemorating your loved one.

The most popular new tradition is having a reception or “celebration of life” following the scattering ceremony. This can be in a location close by, and similar to a reception after a funeral, gives attendees the opportunity to socialize in remembrance of the deceased.

Another way to add significance to the location is to provide attendees with a token of remembrance in which to signify the location you are scattering ashes. Some popular options for this include: cremation jewelry, gifts with coordinates, or printed pictures of the location.

One thing people often forget about, is that pictures can provide a lot of significance to the event and it’s location. A recommendation is to assign an attendee the role of taking pictures of the location. It is suggested that they not photograph people, in respect to those who are grieving. These photos can help loved ones remember the location and also help when trying to locate the exact spot in the future.

Lastly, while at the location or shortly after, you can mark the location using Maplife. The site allows scattering ceremony locations to be easily marked and shared with friends and family. It is free to use, and offers continued significance to your loved one for generations to come.

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This checklist should serve as a guideline, helping you plan the best scattering ceremony for your beloved. The most important thing to keep in mind is that no matter when, where, or how you carry out the scattering ceremony, it will always be significant to you and those you love.  

Download full checklist here

How Mapalife is Here for You

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Mapalife: A New Idea

Mapalife is a start-up company that provides innovative memorial options for a changing funeral industry. As cremation fast becomes the most common form of disposition in the United States, families are presented with new options (and new challenges) on how to memorialize and remember a loved one. In the summer of 2016, founders Becca and Sam decided to form Mapalife…here’s a glimpse into why:

  • Put simply, Mapalife was created because of an unmet need in the funeral industry.
    • While some are cremated and buried in a cemetery, many are placed to rest – their ashes scattered – in a place of personal significance. For the majority of family members who want to know the final resting place of their relatives, this identifies an unmet need. This need continues to grow as cremation rates rise (from 48% in 2015 to 71% in 2030 according to the NFDA).  
    • Mapalife is here to satisfy that need. By creating a Scattersite page, a relative can easily add long-lasting visibility to a loved one’s unique final resting place by sharing the GPS coordinates with family and friends.
  • The potential to provide value during such a difficult time is what motivates us. Starting out, our main focus is to add significance and traceability to someone’s Scattersite. We believe these special places should be shared and remembered. To accomplish this, we’re working hard to make the process of creating and sharing a Scattersite page easy and affordable.
    • In addition to sharing a loved one’s final resting place, Mapalife will be your go-to source for cremation information. We will provide quality information for those who choose cremation and their families.

“For the majority of family members who want to know the final resting place of their relatives, this [cremation] identifies an unmet need…this need continues to grow as cremation rates rise”

  • Lastly, Mapalife strives to be a catalyst for change. The site will change how society thinks about cremation and how the funeral industry services families. 
    • No spoilers here. We commit ourselves to always provide low-cost memorial options, both traditional and innovative.
    • If you’re interested in providing input or learning more, please email info@mapalife.com.
    • To stay up-to-date on our progress (and sign-up for our beta test), join forces with us here: mapalife.com.