As cremation becomes a more popular choice than ever with each successive year, establishments that call themselves a cremation society become more and more prevalent and prominent. It is interesting that these organizations have their roots in the days of old, when cremation was illegal in much of the world. Their founders believed strongly that, when the Bible’s Old Testament says God ordered Abraham to build a funeral pyre for his son Isaac that was a heavenly endorsement for the cremation as the only option for disposal of a deceased person’s body. It was to their horror, then, that government – and civilized society in general – began to shun cremation for a variety of reasons ranging from the practical to the emotional to the religious sensitivities of the 18th and 19th centuries.
So the idea of a cremation society became popular among the rebelliously religious who dared to keep the practice alive until more enlightened attitudes could prevail. It is fair to say that the founders of the first cremation societies of the world would be heartened by the world’s attitudes today (even if the founders did not live to see the changes). Cremation today is said to be practiced in nearly half of all deaths in the developed world, and experts predict that number to grow to close to 80 percent by the middle of the 21st century. To that end, the role of a cremation society in today’s world is no longer that of a clandestine group seeking to keep alive a taboo tradition, so it is instructive and interesting to take a brief look at what exactly is meant by the phrase cremation society today. This article will do just that.
A cremation society today is simply an institution that operates much like a funeral home that specializes in cremations. (In fact, because many modern funeral homes now offer cremations as one of their service options, cremation societies are often seen as direct competitors to funeral homes themselves.) A cremation society is typically equipped to provide convenient, one-stop service at a reasonable rate to any family who’s loved one is to be cremated. A typical cremation society is equipped to do everything from acquisition of a body to completing necessary paperwork to organizing a memorial service to performing the cremation to delivering the cremated remains to their final resting place in a specially selected urn. (And, believe it or not, these are just a few of the services that a cremation society can provide related to cremation.) One of the many reasons why cremation societies are growing in popularity today is because the prices for their services are typically far lower than that of a typical funeral home’s charges for a traditional funeral. Cremation societies advertising on the internet today list prices for their complete package of services at between $1,250 and $1,500. This is well below the average price of a funeral which has been found by many sources to be up to $6,500.
Any discussion of what a cremation society is would not be complete without at least a brief mention of what a cremation society is not. The vast majority of cremation societies today are not, despite what the word “society” may suggest, non-profit operations. While these societies have their roots in the world of the non-profit, most – if not all – have long since become profit-driven ventures just like their funeral home cousins. Many consumer advocates who advise customers of the memorial industry have registered mild complaints against cremation societies for their continued use of the term “society,” a word that is, in other industries, usually reserved to identify operations not driven by a profit motive. Now we’ll turn our attention to a brief discussion of how a cremation society works: generally speaking a cremation society devotes a great deal of its marketing efforts to convincing people to become “members,” for a one-time fee of usually between $15 and $100. Each member of a society will receive a card that is intended to be carried in a wallet along with other important documents and forms of identification. The card gives the contact information for the society and instructions for contacting the group upon the card-holder’s death. Once notified of a member’s death, the society then makes arrangements to have the body transported to the society’s cremation facilities, where all the legal, social and technical processes of cremation begin. The society helps to organize memorial services, files all legal paperwork required before a cremation, and then conducts the cremation itself. Afterward, the society then places the cremation remains in an urn and delivers them to the family or to their final resting place. In many cases, the cremation society additionally arranges for the burial, scattering or permanent display of the cremation ashes.
As we discussed previously, the benefits of membership in a cremation society were once a bit more nefarious than they are today. But there are plenty of very helpful benefits today, nevertheless. Contracting the services of a cremation society can have the same effect that hiring a funeral home has. The peace of mind of knowing that all aspects of cremation are being handled by professionals who are very experienced and competent in their chosen area of expertise can be a great comfort to family members who have lost a loved one and whose first emotional priority is (as it should be) coping with the grief and sorrow at the experience.
Additionally, for who desire cremation for themselves but have families that are not universally enamored with the idea of cremation, arranging for the services of a cremation society well before death can help to keep emotions in check and misunderstandings to a minimum during the family’s most stressful time of need. In fact, a good number of cremation society members end up joining the society because they have a sense that some members of their families are so uncomfortable with the idea of cremation that they will, in fact, refuse to carry out the procedure when the time comes for them to do so. For these people, a cremation society can usually create a formal, legal document that clearly expresses a desire to be cremated not matter what the intentions or desires of family members. Keeping such a document on file, and then enforcing it if necessary, is a very valuable service that a cremation society can provide its members. (This particular benefit of a cremation society harkens directly back to the original reason for cremation societies being formed in the first place.) Finally, our look at cremation societies must conclude with a brief summary of important laws related to a cremation society in just about every state of America. Perhaps the most important of these laws is the one involving advance payment for services. Almost all cremation society will accept advance payment, but laws are quite clear that these payments must be kept in very secure bank accounts that are regulated by government officials and that payments are subject to refund if the cremation society cannot perform the services for any reason. Other important laws to keep in mind: other than the requirement about pre-paid services, most cremation societies are subject to little regulation. In many states, a funeral director’s license is not even required for cremation society operators, but, nevertheless, many cremation societies have at least a handful of licensed funeral directors on their staff. And, finally, it’s important for consumers to remember that a cremation society may not create an artificial monopoly on products it sells. If consumers want to buy a cremation urn from some source other than the society, the society would be in strict violation of the law if it tried to discourage such a purchase or if it refused to transport a person’s remains to the urn. Fortunately for consumers, the vast majority of cremation society employees and managers in America would never even think of violating federal law in this way.