Boston Cremation offers a variety of cremation options to fit your needs and the needs and desires of your loved one who has passed on. In this podcast, licensed funeral director Rebekah Peoples discusses how you can personalize your own cremation through preplanning or your loved one’s cremation with various cremation options.
John Maher: Hi, I’m John Maher. I’m here today with Rebekah Peoples, a licensed funeral director with Boston Cremation. Today our topic is your cremation options. Welcome Rebekah.
Rebekah: Hi, thanks John.
What Cremation Options Do Families Have?
John: Sure. Rebekah, if a family wants to have their loved one cremated, do they have any choices in how that’s done or funeral services around the cremation?
Rebekah: Yes. At Boston Cremation, we offer three main packages. One of them we call just a Simple Cremation, because we started hearing people say more and more, “I just want a simple [cremation], just simple services [to] be cremated.” That’s one of them. The other one is a Simple Cremation with Memorial Service to Follow.
John: That would be the case where they would have the body cremated and you have the ashes maybe in an urn and then you have some sort of service [later] with the urn present there?
Rebekah: Yes. You have a variety of places where the service could be with that. Then we have a package of what we call the Open Casket Cremation, where everything is exactly the same as if the person weren’t going to be cremated, where the person is embalmed and prepared and in a casket. Then after the service is over, the person is cremated.
Locations for Cremation Services
John: Okay. You mentioned different locations where that service could happen. Could you elaborate on that a little bit?
Rebekah: Yes, that would be in the first and the second option. Because you’re going to have a little more flexibility when the person is cremated and their ashes are in some type of container [or urn], whatever is appropriate for you. You have options of having a service with us at the funeral home. [The] second most common is probably at a church.
The Importance of Rituals
Rebekah: Someone has said that as human beings, we like rituals. That when things happen in our lives, we have rituals. When a baby is born, we have a ritual. When someone gets married, we have a ritual. When someone graduates from high school, we have a ritual. When someone’s life ends, it’s appropriate to have a ritual.
John: I think it’s a way of marking an important event in your life, and that might be the beginning of your life or it could be the end of your life. It could be some momentous occasion in the middle of your life somewhere, like you said, like a graduation, or a wedding, or something like that. Those rituals are our way of saying, “This is an important day, you know out of all of the days that I have in my life, this is one of the important ones.”
Rebekah: That’s very well worded. I like that, John. That’s exactly what our lives are. Our lives are a series of days. Some are not necessarily more special, but different. Special in a different way. We as human beings like to have these rituals to honor other people. Like having a surprise birthday party. Or having a surprise wedding shower.
Rebekah: The funeral is probably the epitome of having this gathering. This meeting of people together for someone else. I have a funeral director friend that says, “We’re on the cusp of people being present for their own funerals through videos.” We do hear of that. We have not experienced that, but I’m sure that that’s coming and maybe more common than we realize in the future.
John: “Oh, the person who passed away would like to speak to you all and has a message for you, here they are” Then they play the video or something.
Rebekah: Yes. We see that in movies with people talking during the reading of their wills, because they will videotape them.
What to Do with Cremains
John: Interesting. If you choose not to have an official service, that Simple Cremation that you talked about, but maybe you want to take the ashes and do something on your own, is that okay? What kinds of things do you see people doing?
Rebekah: Yes, we see people doing that quite a bit because that’s another thing. If I could just back up a minute to what we talked about before with places for the memorial service that people are doing, people are [also] doing them in their backyard or at their favorite restaurant. Or the place where their mother or their father used to love to go. I think that you can do that with us being part of that, as a second pass package that we have. But a lot of people are doing that on their own. When you mentioned if people choose the Simple Cremation, can they do the service on their own? People are doing that. People are doing that in some pretty unique places and doing things to honor that person’s memory.
John: Right. When they want it, they’re happy to have you be a part of that day and have you help the family through that time and be a part of that. But there’s probably some families that feel like, “You know what, we don’t we don’t really need that, we want to just have maybe a little more intimate gathering and we wanted just our own family to be there or our friends,” or something like that. That’s okay, people can go ahead and do that.
Rebekah: Yes. I think that that’s important. I think that those rituals that we have, we plan around what is appropriate for us. I think that a person’s funeral should reflect their life. We see that a lot, where children, especially children and sometimes spouses if there’s a surviving spouse, want to plan what’s significant for that person’s life.
John: This person would have loved this.
Rebekah: Exactly. Or we see that now just recently someone said something about cremating their father in his favorite shirt.
Rebekah: I think it’s nice that people now, we kind of have an “anything goes” society. I remember when I was in high school and there were certain styles. Certain things the girls wore. Certain ways the guys wore their hair. Now people do whatever they want and nobody really cares.
John: People are more individuals now and I think it’s a nice reflection of our society now, and that’s okay. You know that people can be themselves and can be whoever they choose to be, and other people say, “Good for him for doing that.”
Rebekah: Exactly. Yes.
John: It’s nice when their funeral service can reflect that a little bit, and like you said, be in a certain location that maybe they really liked. Have the people that they loved to be there with them and just have that whole service reflect the type of person that they are. Maybe what their wishes for what they would have wanted their funeral service to be like after they’re gone.
Rebekah: I think that one thing that came to my mind as you we’re talking about what people do that definitely reflects the person’s life, [and] is this is only true with cremation, is that people will say, “Oh, we’re all going to meet” and they’ll name a location, “because that was one of his favorite places and we’re going to scatter his ashes.”
Rebekah: That’s so individual. Because what my favorite place is, is probably not your favorite place. For family members to honor that like, “This was his favorite place to fish.” “This is his favorite place to hike.” Or, “This is where he loved being at our cabin more than anything else and on a cold snowy day. That’s where he was with a fireplace roaring and reading his favorite books and we always loved going there to visit.” Cremation just lends itself to all kinds of individualistic expressions that we don’t normally have.
Helping Grieving Families to Obtain Closure
John: Do you think also that it helps to have the family sort of gain closure over the loss of a loved one to the fact that they can look back on that day and say, “Wow, that service that we had was really special,” and somehow that just brings a little extra satisfaction, or piece that that they were able to do something really special for that person that they loved.
Rebekah: I think that’s true. I guess to make another analogy, people remember weddings, people remember funerals. I think that that’s interesting because, what do people remember about funerals? I kind of have a joke with people when they talk about caskets that I don’t come from a funeral home background. I’m not a third-generation funeral director. I’m a first-generation funeral director, the only one in my family. I use them as my people to get objective opinions because I’ve been a funeral director for so long that I’m not sure I’m always objective anymore. One day my mother and I were talking about caskets. The conclusion that I came to was that if you stood outside a funeral home, as people were leaving and said, “So what [did] the casket look like?” [They would say] “I don’t know.” They don’t know what the casket looked like.
John: That’s true. I’m trying to think back on family members that have passed and I couldn’t think, wooden prop, you know what I think?
John: Was it even wood colored or was it gray or something? I can’t even remember.
Rebekah: Yes. Because right away my mother spoke up and she goes, “Oh, well, I remember this woman’s funeral who was a neighbor of ours because there were flowers on the handles.”
John: Okay, yes.
Rebekah: Unless there’s something like that . . ..
John: Something unusual that stands out.
Rebekah: But when you go to someone’s service — some of the more unusual things that we’ve been talking about, “Oh yes, I remember his funeral. Remember when we all met up in his cabin?”
Rebekah: “Remember when we all walked around the lake? Remember when we went to his favorite watering hole and we all went around the room and shared on one of our memories before we all toasted him or you enjoyed one of his favorite meals?”
That’s what people remember. We remember the intangible things. We remember the things that evoke some feelings, some emotion. I think that those things are important.
The Importance of Having Services
Rebekah: Maybe, we can talk sometime about the importance of having these services. Because one of the things that these services also do, whether you realize it or not that you touched on, is they’re very meaningful to the family members because now their life has changed completely.
Let me just say too, it’s not always family. Sometimes, people’s best friends, people’s coworkers are closer to them than family members. Their life is changed completely when someone dies. Even if their death is expected, their life has changed completely when that person is no longer there.
This getting together of having these little rituals or having these services that are unique and that are special and meaningful to the person are the ways that all the people that are there realize that they’re not grieving alone, that all these people that are here loved my father too, or loved my best friend too.
They all understand that this is a difficult time for all of us. I remember working with someone who had a loss in their family and it was like, “Don’t talk to her about him because we don’t want to make her cry.”
But if we’re all there around this table or around this area for this ritual, we know that if she wants to talk about him and it makes her cry, we’re all there for her.
John: Right. This is a safe place to do that.
Rebekah: Yes. We all care about what you’re going through and that’s why we’re here today.
John: That’s great. That’s really great information. It was great talking to you, Rebekah. Thank you.
Rebekah: Yes, thanks. Good to be here.
John: For more information, visit the website at www.bostoncremation.org or call 781-322-0909.