Sunday, September 19, 2004

More families choosing cremation

New generation sees death differently

By Ari Bloomekatz
Enquirer staff writer

STONELICK TOWNSHIP - When Geneva and Roy Lanthorn buried their daughter 10 years ago, the ordeal convinced the couple to choose cremation instead of burial when they die.

Donna's funeral was drawn out for days, and receiving hundreds of guests and going to the cemetery on a sweltering July day was difficult on the family.

"I knew then I was not going to put my kids through that when something happens to me. It's too much on a family," said 65-year-old Geneva Lanthorn.

"There were so many people there. Of course, being the mother, you feel like you have to talk to everybody that comes in. It was just five or six hours just standing on your feet. One day you can handle it; two days is just too much."

The Lanthorns are hardly alone.


Below are answers to commonly asked cremation-related questions:

QUESTION: Can the remains of loved ones who were cremated be buried in a cemetery?

ANSWER: Cremation is only incineration of a corpse. Families can choose to keep the remains orhave them buried or immured.

Q: Are cremations always cheaper than traditional burials?

A: No. It is true the average cremation is cheaper than the average traditional burial at many funeral homes in Greater Cincinnati, but many features can increase the price of a cremation. Urns, for example, can run from $80 to $5,000 or more. Services and the region of the country where a cremation is performed are also factors.

Q: Are bodies cremated at funeral homes?

A: Sometimes. Some funeral homes, such as Radel Funeral Homes in California and Craver-Riggs Funeral Home in Milford, have their own crematoriums. However, many funeral homes use service providers.

Q: Where can I get more information about cremation?

A: Visit the Cremation Association of North America's Web site, or call the Cremation Society of Greater Cincinnati at (513)421-5777 or (859) 581-8811 (Newpor) or visit the society's Web site.

Cremation, rarely practiced in Greater Cincinnati just a generation ago, is increasingly becoming a choice for families here and across the nation. Funeral industry experts attribute this trend to several factors, including cost, convenience and cultural changes.

In Cincinnati, more than 20 percent of deaths result in cremations; in Northern Kentucky, the rate is 14 percent. At Radel Funeral Homes in California, Ohio, owner Fares Radel said cremations make up 50 percent of his business, up from 10 percent a decade ago.

Seven years after her daughter died of colon cancer, Geneva Lanthorn's husband, Roy, died from diabetes complications. The couple's decision to have Roy's body cremated, Geneva said, expedited the funeral and was easier on the family than when her daughter died.

Roy's son, Mark Lanthorn, 39, of New Richmond, said he now is considering cremation, in part, because he doesn't want to burden his family with the expense of a burial.

An average cremation service costs $1,200, while the average burial runs about $5,000, said Alfred Milton II of Thompson Hall & Jordan Funeral Home in Walnut Hills.

For some families, cremation can ease the grieving process.

When Sandy Catanzaro's father, Rolland Miller, died in 1997, her in-laws gave her a tree to plant. When her mother, Lillian, died in July, the same in-laws gave her a magnolia tree to place beside the first.

Though her parents died nearly seven years apart, Catanzaro said they will be reunited on the couple's wedding anniversary in April, after she scatters their ashes by the trees. "(Cremation) gives you the opportunity to grieve or remember in your own time,'' the Burlington woman said. "So much happens right around the immediate passing. Details, death certificates, planning...."

Guy Linneman, owner of Linneman Funeral Homes in Northern Kentucky, said the most significant act affecting cremation came in the 1960s when the Catholic church formally relaxed restrictions. For centuries, Catholicism forbade cremation, but in 1963 the Vatican II Council lifted that ban.

Other changes in recent years include the traditional ideas of death, resurrection and the after-life.

Dan Flory, president of the Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science, said people traditionally viewed the body as a temple of the spirit; what hurt the body, hurt the spirit.

"(But today) some people believe that if there is a resurrection, there will be a spiritual body that will continue immediately after death," Flory said.

While more cremations are being performed in the local area, the number pales in comparison to rates on the West Coast and in some countries abroad.

Oregon and Washington report cremation rates of 60 percent, almost three times as high as Ohio. Experts cite the influence of the Pacific Rim, where cremations are the rule, not the exception. In Japan, for example, nearly 98 percent of the population chooses cremations.



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