Cultural values keep evolving in America, and here's another: Cremation gradually is overtaking traditional burial when U.S. families cope with death.
We think this trend is sensible, because cremation costs far less -- and families shouldn't waste thousands of dollars that could go for more urgent needs. Dignified memorial services can be held without coffins, and ashes can be sprinkled at favorite nature spots or put in preserved in urns.
The June 13 TIME magazine says:
"Today we're a far different society than we were just a few decades ago. Within the next few years it's projected that, for the first time, more Americans will get cremated than buried. Much of the recent rise of cremation's popularity can be credited to the Great Recession. Cremations can cost as little as a quarter as much as traditional burials. But it's not just the price tag that makes cremation a popular alternative. For one, we're a much more mobile society today. We don't buy family plots the way we used to because more of us get an education, start a family, get a job and retire far from our birthplaces. When it comes time to find a final resting place, transporting an urn is much easier than dealing with a casket."
Part of the change is linked to religious attitudes. The huge Roman Catholic Church lifted its ban on cremation in 1963, and most "tall steeple" mainline Protestant bodies now welcome it. Resistance remains chiefly in fundamentalist groups that anticipate a Second Coming and resurrection of bodies.
West Virginia lags behind most U.S. states in cremation, statistical reports say. We wish a nonprofit cremation society would open in the Mountain State, offering families the lowest possible funeral cost.
TIME says another method is gaining popularity among nature-lovers who oppose fuel-burning for cremation. It involves chemical dissolution of bodies.
It's fascinating to watch cultural changes as they occur, decade after decade. This is one of many.