Common options are:
In our culture, most people are buried in cemeteries. This involves purchasing a grave site. Many families have prepaid and earmarked space in a family plot where generations are buried. Some people are buried on personal property. Earth burial also requires a casket and, in most cases, a burial vault. See Merchandise for more on these items.
Being entombed in a mausoleum or lawn crypt is another option. A mausoleum is a large sepulchral monument containing a chamber in which funeral urns and coffins are stored. The name is derived from the tomb of King Mausolus in Turkey whose wife erected the mausoleum about 350 BC.
The Pyramids, The Catacombs, and The Taj Mahal are other notable mausolea. While all are monuments to individuals of means and power, they represent a strong human desire to be memorialized in a unique and lasting way. As the 19th century church cemeteries filled, community mausolea became popular as a way to conserve space and accommodate additional “guests.” Instead of housing a single person or family, they accommodate many people. They are more common in areas where land is swampy or freezing, making burial difficult. Lawn crypts are normally smaller and designed to hold only members of one family.
See Cemeteries for more information on mausoleums and lawn crypts.
Other alternative options are:
Burial at Sea
Alternative interment arrangements, such as burial at sea, are generally handled by specialized service providers. Oftentimes, Funeral Directors have relationships with these organizations and are able to contract their services for you.
The most common method of burial at sea is a scattering of cremated remains. Whole body burials are possible but they are more involved due, in part, to regulations requiring them to be done at a specific depth of the sea and the need for a specially prepared casket that will descend to the ocean floor. The service providers that specialize in burial at sea are familiar with the various federal and state laws and will handle all governmental reporting requirements.
Scattering cremated remains at sea can be done from a boat or ship, from the beach into the surf of the ocean, or even from the air. Funeral homes also offer biodegradable urns that can be released into bodies of water and will float for a short time and then gently disintegrate, releasing the ashes into the sea.
The Department of the Navy offers free burial at sea services for veterans and their families subject to certain restrictions.
Some other little known options include sending cremated remains to a company who combines the ashes with a type of concrete that makes artificial reefs under water, sending ashes to a company who claims to make authentic lab-made diamonds, and even cryogenics (i.e. freezing the body).
If traditional burial, entombment or inurnment is your choice, keep in mind that most funeral homes have access to lockets to hold locks of hair or small portions of cremated remains, or keepsake urns which are small and can be used to divide cremated remains among family, or just hold a small portion while the rest will be buried or inurned.
Donating your body to science
In an age where studying the human body can help medical science and organs can save lives, donation is an important consideration. Donation of organs or donation of the body should not affect funeral ceremonies. Donated organs must be transplanted shortly after death. After the organs have been taken, all aspects of the funeral can proceed as they would otherwise, including an open casket viewing, traditional funeral services, and burial or cremation. Likewise, donation of a body to medical science can be preceded by a viewing and funeral ceremonies.
Take these 3 steps to ensure that your donation wishes will be followed:
- Make your family aware of your decision to donate. Family consent will be needed regardless of whether you have signed a Donor Card or a Driver’s License. They will be more likely to follow your wishes if you have discussed the issue with them previously.
- Sign a Uniform Donor Card and have 2 people (preferably family members) sign as witnesses. The back of your Driver’s License may also have a donor authorization form.
- Carry the Donor Card in your wallet at all times.
Additional information and Donor Cards can be obtained via the web from:
American Medical Association (www.ama-assn.org)
International Association for Organ Donation (www.iaod.org)
Science Care (Science Care)