Unclaimed ashes cause problems for undertaker
One of the more unusual stories in the press recently tells of a Southampton undertaker, who claims to be storing over 400 sets of cremated ashes, stretching back almost five decades.
Despite most relatives normally collecting their deceased loved one's ashes within a day or two of the cremation, surprisingly there are also a small number of people who leave it much longer – or even don't collect them at all. Presumably, either they don't want to have to face the further task of distributing the ashes, which can be too distressing for some, or sadly, sometimes there has been a breakdown of relationship within the family circle and so no-one comes forward to claim them.
The problem with this particular undertaker has become so difficult that it has actually put out a public plea, to identify any potential relatives and ask them to come forward to remove the ashes.
The National Association of Funeral Directors has its own guidelines, recommending that undertakers hold onto unclaimed ashes for a period of at least five years, so the fact that the Southampton undertaker is still holding some, after a period of over forty years, is amazing.
Research has already been undertaken to find out the next of kin for some of the ashes – a task which unfortunately was fruitless, and so the net has now widened to find any family members from the next generation.
Scottish council blasted for new funeral rules
South Lanarkshire Council has been criticised for being discriminatory, after outlining new rules to funeral directors, regarding the cremation of obese individuals.
In a letter to local funeral directors, the council states that its crematorium in Blantyre is only able to hold one service each day for any individual weighing over 21 stone. This ruling may of course create a backlog of services and delay families from being able to lay their loved one to rest.
In addition, the council says that any such funeral service must take place before 11am, creating potential problems for those having to travel a significant distance to attend the service.
Danny Maxwell, bereavement service manager for South Lanarkshire Council, stresses that the new ruling was brought in to comply with Health & Safety regulations and instructions from manufacturers. However, one of the funeral directors concerned feels that it is unfair and that the council is discriminating against people who are over that particular weight.
With body sizes continuing to increase within both the adult and child populations of the western world, surely this problem will grow. Authorities must therefore consider how they will cope with providing crematorium services for a higher number of obese individuals over the longer term – and begin investing now. Everyone deserves to die with dignity and for families to be told that their loved one's service has to be especially organised, can only cause additional distress.
For years we’ve heard that graveyards are running out of space, but now it seems that calls are being made to actually re-use graves.
The BBC has undertaken research which suggests that almost half of the UK’s cemeteries could find themselves completely full within the next 20 years, with a quarter of them reaching capacity within ten years.
Some local councils are already having to deal with the problem on an individual basis, as their plots are completely full.
The latest solution, which was suggested by an academic, would see graves older than 75 years old, being “re-used”. How this would actually be carried out is not certain – whether the person’s remains if any, would be removed and/or reinterred elsewhere, or whether the next burial would take place on top of the last.
Finding an appropriate solution to such an emotive problem will obviously not be easy. However, the considerable price difference between a cremation and a burial may well encourage more people to opt for the latter – particularly with the average burial now costing around £4000.
I watched an interesting item the other day, featured on the Daybreak programme, which discussed how many people felt the charges for organising a funeral were excessive and how some companies in the industry were taking advantage of these people at a vulnerable time.
The feature went on to talk about how although on average, funerals tend to cost around anywhere up to £7000, there are ways to reduce this cost considerably, if you’re prepared to plan most of it yourself.
It may surprise you to know that hiring a funeral director to arrange everything is not a requirement, although at such a difficult time, most of us choose to hand over the funeral planning details to someone with experience.
We all have differing views on burial and cremation which may not even necessarily depend on our religion. It’s worth having the conversation now with your spouse, siblings and parents, to see whether they have any strong views, one way or the other. What should be bourne in mind is that a burial can cost substantially more than a cremation.
Whilst you’re having that conversation, why not also find out if they have any preferences with regards to a coffin? If they want to be cremated when the time comes, then buying an expensive coffin may not be a sensible choice if the budget is tight. Costs can vary widely, depending on choice of wood and accessories. If your loved one cares about the environment, they may even opt for a bio-degradable coffin, rather than an expensive wooden one.
Items such as flowers and stationery can also be bought quite reasonably, if you take the time to shop around.
Although it’s traditional to hold a reception of some kind after the funeral, so that friends and family can socialise, share their memories and pay their respects; remember that this doesn’t have to be held in a pub or other venue. Why not hold it in the deceased’s home or your home instead and ask close relatives to help out with the catering? In many cases, they’ll be glad that they can play an active part and it will give them something else on which to focus.
Finally, the last thing you want is to cause your family financial hardship and additional stress, to add to their grief when you’re gone. Why not do one last thing for them and plan in advance by paying small amounts into a funeral plan, so they don’t have to worry so much about budgeting for your funeral? For help with funeral planning please call us