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All of us in this industry are on top of the cremation trend. The general public pretends to be on top of this trend, but they are grossly ignorant (to no fault of their own) as to what cremation really means. I see a strong connection to the increase in cremation to being able to put off, ignore or prolong the process of death; this is unhealthy on so many different levels and I wish we could all do a better job of letting the public know this.
Currently, I'm working diligently to propose the construction of a beautiful, yet modest chapel on a small cemetery which our company owns in what is referred to as the "Lake Country area" of Wisconsin. It's not exactly a rural community in comparison to what rural really means, but it is a smaller community which houses several prestigious lakes. Included with this chapel is a crematory. Because of this, the community is outraged. I'm being threatened, am being called immoral and our company is being referred to as unethical and lacking values - all from people who do not know us personally or likely haven't been involved with actually having to make funeral arrangements for anyone closes to them. Ouch! To not take this personally is very difficult.
I'm not ignorant to our society's general fear of death. But, within the last 45 days, my eyes have been opened up and I have an entirely different perspective on the general stigma that death creates. Although this crematory proposal is to be within a cemetery, which has been part of the community since 1847, I'm in awe of the different perception this community has of what we have been doing as a cemetery operation vs. what we are proposing to do as a cemetery operation which now offers cremation services. My jaw has literally dropped when people try to communicate to me what they think is going to happen if a crematory operation is in their community: the lakes in the area are now going to be polluted and contaminated; their children are going to get mercury poisoning, the soot created from the cremation process is going to leave a path whichever the way the wind is blowing that day. I haven't had the courage to ask them about the cremated remains that they scattered over these same lakes because it was "mom's wishes" to do so. Why is this acceptable for them to scatter the cremated remains over the lakes, but they want nothing to do with really understanding how a human body was altered into that form.
Last night I was watching "Taboo" on the National Geographic channel. The topic was exactly what I'm referring to here: The stigma of death. It was a fascinating episode which I just happened to stumble upon. It discussed and showed the Hindu vs. American culture's funeral practices along with other topics relating to death. It reminded me of my hope for our society: to be more accepting of death, of the conversation revolving around it and the healing process that a funeral, life celebration or some sort of ceremony brings to those left behind. Ignoring the fact of life - death - is becoming more of the norm. All of us in the funeral industry need to continue to help families through education and the encouragement of preplanning. This creates a conversation which likely would not have been had if we didn't individually take the time to provoke a few questions to them.
It is my hope that the hearing that we are holding on May 5th doesn't get too ugly. I hope that my passion for showing people how we can help them in the long run by providing quality, personalized services, which now includes cremation, is strong enough to overpower the threats, irrational thoughts and hundreds of people who will be there to oppose the crematory. For what is a natural way to do business for us is causing normally educated and reasonable people to come across as the exact opposite.