Showing posts with label urn. Show all posts
Showing posts with label urn. Show all posts

Friday, May 25, 2012

Burial at Sea

There are many ways to dispose of human remains.  In the United States, we tend to prefer burial.  In England, cremation is the first choice.  In Tibet,  sky burial is favored.  But now that ‘green burials,’ (those that are more in tune with nature) are catching on again, burial at sea is becoming more popular.

Burial at sea is accomplished by taking the deceased’s body, or their cremains, out on the ocean and dropping them over the edge of a boat into the water. Burials at sea have occurred since ancient times.  

Viking Ship
The Vikings would place a body on board a ship and set it on fire as a way to help the deceased get to Valhalla.

Egyptian Raft
Throughout the islands of the South Pacific, the dead were placed in canoes and launched into the sea.

The ancient Egyptians placed their dead on papyrus rafts and floated them off to sea.

Military Services
Military navies around the world have practiced sea burials for hundreds of years.  From the fifteenth century to WW II, sailors have committed their own to the sea.  Superstition had it that a sailor not buried at sea would become restless and haunt the place where he died.

Davy Jones Locker
If a ship capsized and life was lost, sailors would refer to those who had drowned as having been sent to Davy Jones Locker.  The origin of the saying is not known, but it was first reported in Four Years Voyages of Capt. George Roberts published in London in 1726.  During the nineteenth century, the phrase became popular among sailors.

Burial at sea is not a complicated process, but rules and regulations must be followed.  In the U.S., a body must be taken at least 3 nautical miles away from the coastline and dropped in water at least 600 feet deep.  There are some areas that require the water to be 1800 feet deep.  The remains must be prepared in a manner so that they will sink quickly and permanently.   
Casket for Sea Burial

If using a casket, it must be weighed down with one hundred pounds of weight, and have twelve 6 inch holes drilled into the lid and bottom of the casket, in order to allow the water in to aid in the sinking. Five metal bands must also be wrapped around the casket.

Sea Shroud
New England Burials at Sea,
offers full body burials at sea.  The body is placed in a shroud that is weighted down with cannon balls.  The shroud will decompose over time and the cannon balls help to form a reef, keeping everything natural. 

All sea burials must be reported to the EPA.  A Burial at Sea form must be completed. It will require the name of the deceased, port of departure, name of vessel, longitude and latitude of the drop, and if the remains were cremains or a body.  For more information visit

Lighthouse Urn
Shell Urn
Almost 90% of human remains taken out to sea for burial are cremains, the remainder of the cremation process.  They may be taken out three miles from the coast and scattered on the water or dropped into the ocean in an urn. The urn may be watertight or one that will dissolve with time. 

Man-made Reef Urn
Neptune Memorial Reef
Urns may also be part of a reef that attracts sea life.  The Neptune Memorial Reef is the largest man-made reef ever built.  It is located just over 3 miles east of Key Biscayne, Miami, Florida and attracts sea life and scuba divers.

Religious beliefs can influence whether someone may be buried at sea.  Traditional Orthodox Judaism prohibits burial at sea.  Reform Judaism may allow a burial at sea after consultation with a Rabbi, but burial is still preferred.

The Roman Catholic Church will approve burial at sea in a casket or urn when the deceased has died at sea.

Buddhism specifies that the body should be cremated, placed in an urn and buried or put in a columbarium.  However, a ceremony has been developed for Buddhist military personnel who must be buried at sea.

Hinduism requires the deceased to be cremated and the ashes placed in the Ganges River.  But burial at sea can be approved after discussion with a Hindu priest.

Islam calls for the body to be buried deep into the ground.  However, if the person died at sea and decay could be a problem, a sea burial is allowed.  Also, if enemies might dig up the body to mutilate it, a sea burial is acceptable, as in the case of Osama bin Laden.

The cost of a burial at sea is quite inexpensive when compared to a traditional burial in the United States.  Depending on the company, some vessels will charge a nominal fee ($50 to $100) to carry ashes out to sea and scatter them.  Others will take the family out to sea where a service can be held and the remains dropped over the edge of the ship or boat.  Prices vary, but the smaller the boat, the less the expense.

Many well-known people have been buried at sea including;

John F. Kennedy, Jr.
Alfred Hitchcock
H.G. Wells (1866 – 1946)
Janis Joplin (1943 – 1970)
Alfred Hitchcock (1899 – 1980)
Rock Hudson (1925 – 1985)
Vincent Price (1911 – 1993)
Gene Kelly (1912 – 1996) 
John Kennedy Jr. (1960 – 1999)
Dick Clark         (1929 – 2012)

Those who request burial at sea usually have a deep affinity for the ocean, whether from working on it, being near it, or just loving to look at it.  Many people find a sea burial to be a serene and unobtrusive way to sail off into the sunset.

I Must Down to the Seas Again, the Lonely Sea and the Sky

I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,

And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,

And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,

And a grey mist on the sea's face, and a grey dawn breaking.
I must down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide

Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;

And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,

And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.
I must down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,

To the gull's way and the whale's way where the wind's like a whetted knife;

And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover

And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.
         ~ John Masefield, Poet Laureate (1878 - 1967)

~ Joy

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Cost of Dying – Cremation

Last week, we looked at the various costs associated with dying in the United States.  All told, death is a $12 to $15-billion industry in this country. According to the 2010 Funeral Price Survey by the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA), Americans spent, on average, $7,775.00 for a traditional adult funeral.  (This does NOT include the burial plot and cemetery expenses.)

But not everyone wants a funeral that includes embalming, a viewing, a religious ceremony, and a graveside service.  Not to mention a state-of-the-art casket with burial vault, obituary notices, flowers, music, prayer cards, memorial cards, acknowledgement cards, hearse, and limousine for transportation to the cemetery for the interment.  National trends show that we are moving away from these traditional religious funerals.  For those seeking less pomp and circumstance, there are options.

Cremation is the alternative that more people are deciding on.  In 1985, only 15% of the deceased were cremated.  According to the Cremation Association of North America, (CANA) today, 36% of deceased are cremated.  And projections show that by 2025, almost 56% will be cremated.  (The revenue on cremations alone has increased almost 1-billion dollars in just five years.) 

Cremation in the U.S.
The acceptance of cremation varies widely across the country as shown on this 2006 map.  Western states favor cremation more than other states, with almost 67% of Hawaiian residents, along with 65% of residents in Oregon and Nevada opting for cremation.  Southern states such as Alabama and Mississippi only show 11% of those deceased being cremated.  Studies indicate that the drastic difference of acceptance for cremation in this country may be due to religion and religious beliefs.

With that in mind, cremation is growing in acceptance as our ties to tradition diminish.  According to the funeral industry-sponsored 2006 Wirthlin Report, the top five reasons why a person selects cremation are:

• Cremation saves money (30%)
• Cremation saves land (13%)
• Cremation is simpler (8%)
• The body is not in the earth (6%)
• Personal Preference (6%)

Questions to Ask
When considering cremation, the Cremation Association of North America suggests you ask the following questions before deciding on a funeral home or crematory:

  Do they have their own crematory or do they work with a cremation firm? 
If the latter, which crematory do they use?
  Who owns the crematory facility?
  How often do they inspect that facility?
  Are licenses and permits current?
 How many operators do they have and what type of training 
do they require? 
Are they CANA certified?
 Does the crematory have refrigeration?
 How long does the crematory hold the body prior to cremation?
 Does the crematory have liability insurance?
• Does the crematory facility allow witnessing by family members?

Cremation Box
Remains Box
When selecting cremation you do not have to purchase a casket.  Check with your local funeral home about renting a casket if you would like to hold a public viewing.  If you decide on direct cremation, (having the remains cremated immediately after death,) you can choose an unfinished wooden coffin or a heavy cardboard enclosure for the cremation.  You are also not required to purchase an urn for the remains. You may keep them in the box provided by the crematory.

What is Cremation?
Cremated Remains
Cremation is a process that reduces the body to ashes, known as cremains.  But the cremains are more than just ashes.  They also contain bone fragments that are pulverized and resemble gravel or broken seashells.

Cremation, like a traditional funeral, will vary in cost depending on what you decide on.  Basic cremation can cost as little as $300.  Or it can run several thousands if you decide on an Urn Committal Service, (similar to a traditional funeral service with cremation.)

Cremation Options
Private Viewing
You may choose to hold a private family viewing, without embalming, before the cremation. Embalming is never required for the first 24 after death. You also have a set amount of time to arrange for the body to be cremated before embalming may be required according to your state law.

Memorial Service
You may decide on direct (immediate) cremation and then hold a memorial service for the deceased at a later time when all of the family and friends can gather together.

Memorial Bench for Urns
Urn Committal Service
Or you could choose to have a more traditional ceremony, known as an Urn Committal Service. The deceased is embalmed and casketed for a public viewing and a funeral service is held before the cremation.  You can also purchase a burial spot for the receptacle to be buried in.

A typical cremation with memorial service and urn can cost between $1,500 and $2,000.

The Remains
Earthen Urn

Outside Columbarium
Once the body is cremated you may elect to keep the remains in a container at home, place them in a columbarium, or have them buried.

Cowboy Urn
Fingerprint Heart Jewelry
Urns and receptacles come in many options including biodegradable, hardwood, granite, marble and metal.  Urns can be very simple or as unique as you would like.  Jewelry is also offered which holds a small amount of ashes, keeping your loved one close to you.

Casting Ashes to the Wind
Cremation Garden
The ashes may also be scattered or cast at a Cremation Garden or a location that was special to the deceased.  Just make sure this is in compliance with the local health department’s regulations.  It is legal in all states to scatter or bury cremated remains on private property, as long as you have the landowner’s permission.  You may also consider scattering ashes at sea.

The most important thing to remember is that no amount of money can express how we feel about those we have lost, so we owe it to them to handle their remains in the manner that they would have wanted – with love and respect for the life they lived.

~ Joy