Direct cremation, never heard of it? Well it is what David Bowie did when he died. No family, no crematoria visit, no fuss. He then had his ashes scattered in Bali (Indonesia).
Direct cremation is not a new phenomenon but in its current form it is different enough to be making a stir.
Depending on who you speak to this is either an abomination or a welcome choice. I have a seen a few funeral directors wringing their hands prophesying the end of the industry and have heard some saying it is a fad and it will be here today and gone tomorrow. Neither is correct in my opinion. This form of funeral is here to stay and for some it is perfect choice, for others not so. The question is who is it suitable for?
Doing the wrong thing for the right wrong reasons (with laudable intentions)
The phrase: Just put me in the bin is frequently heard in my world. It is symptomatic of the practical no nonsense section of society, secular with strong sense of modesty and stoicism: British.
So it is a British issue? No. This is big in the States and Australia too. Although why those cultures opt for it I don’t know, I have not seen the research or the data. But I shall have a look.
However, the all to common route is an increasing desire for the old not wishing to burden the young. We here phrases like “I don’t want a grave, because I don’t want to feel they have to visit me.”, or “I want to get it sorted so there are no arguments”, or “I want everything in place before I go”. Now it is an often documented occurrence that people look after others better than they do themselves the marmite author Jordan Peterson in his book about life’s rules dedicated a whole chapter to it Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping. On this occasion I think he has a point: we don’t. And this is what can happen here, the thought process: no fuss, save the money; makes no difference anyway.
People may choose direct cremation for a misguided rational, however good their intentions. This might sound funny, but in a sense the funeral in my opinion is not for the deceased, they are not there in any conscious sense, it is for those grieving.
So does that mean Direct Cremation has no place in the funeral world
Certainly not, it is a very welcome option. I can think of a number reasons why you might consider it, some when I list them sound callous or uncaring, I don’t mean this to be the case, what I am saying is that they might be appropriate when combined with other factors:
- You have said your goodbyes in a better place and the crematoria holds nothing for you or the family.
- When people want to focus the memorialisation on the ashes such as committal at sea. Or a sky burial e.g. putting the ashes into a weather balloon and going up into space.
- Where the person has discussed it with family, and it has been considered and deemed appropriate.
- Single person estate where there are no mourners
- Where the family is abroad and it is prudent to cremate and return the ashes for a memorial service.
- Affordability. Money and funerals are uncomfortable bedfellows. This may be the only affordable option for some families and rather than going into unaffordable levels of debt. The family choose this option then go on to do something meaningful with the ashes.
- If there has been an extreme breakdown in family relations, you may think a ‘get-together’ funeral would be a disaster.
The list is neither exclusive or didactic, it is meant to emphasize that there are positive and practical choices to be made, but make them in the light of the facts and opinion of those who matter.