Mesa County residents weigh in: Cremation or burial?
Cost definitely plays a role in funeral decisions these days. But for many, so does the emotional response — mainly the unpleasant thought of decomposing in the ground or being turned to ash.
When the Free Press polled its readers on Facebook asking: “Would you rather be buried or cremated, and why?” — goofy answers aside, all but a few people said they preferred cremation over casket burial for reasons spanning finances, the “ick” factor of being worm food, and wanting their ashes to be scattered in a non-traditional setting (like on mountains or near favorite bodies of water).
And even though cremation won out as the preferred option by Grand Valley locals, reasoning as to why varied greatly.
Grand Junction resident Dana VanVoorhees said she’d chose cremation as a way to be connected to nature, even in death.
“I want to be scattered in Crested Butte at my favorite mountain bike trail — the 401,” 43-year-old VanVoorhees said. “I can’t ever remember wanting to be buried underground; to me, that doesn’t feel natural.”
VanVoorhees, who works as a nurse at the Grand Junction Regional Center, also said she thinks cremation is gaining in acceptance and practice, though many people still opt for a traditional casket burial.
“There’s been a shift in consciousness,” she noted. “I think before it was somewhat taboo to think of cremation. … I also think the younger generation is more open to taking about death.”
“As a nurse, I do see people considering end-of-life wishes,” VanVoorhees added, “and it’s not just the older generation who should have end-of-life wishes. Anything could happen at any given time, so it’s wise to have a plan in place and think about what you want — cremation or burial.”
Having a special family place to gather and remember a loved one is another reason people are favoring cremation these days.
Grand Junction resident Joe Burtard said he prefers cremation over burial as a celebration of his time with family and friends.
“Life is about making memories; a journey and a challenge that I feel I have embraced,” 29-year-old Burtard said. “I want my life and those memories to be a celebration and not a time of sorrow or mourning. I cannot fathom the idea of being laid to rest in a dark hole and hidden away from all God’s glory here on earth.”
And over the course of his life, Burtard noted “several locations of significant spiritual and emotional value” for his ashes to be spread when the time comes.
“Ideally, I would like my friends and family to be able to have personal closure, but only when they are ready and in locations appropriate to the life we shared together,” Burtard said. “Cremation allows for friends and family members to cope, celebrate and heal. Where I feel the traditional burial forces individuals, who are already faced with hardship, into a unhealthy healing process.”
Grand Junction resident Brandi Friar sees cremation as a way to celebrate her family as well and to create an ancestral gathering place for generations to come. She wants her ashes to be spread on the Grand Mesa in the same location her grandfather, James Marshall, was scattered almost 11 years ago.
“We put him up on the Grand Mesa, and every summer we make it a point to go up there as a family,” 26-year-old Friar said. It’s nice for the family to be able to go up to the spot, have a good time, and at the same time remember him.”
“My mom and uncle want to be there as well,” she noted. “That is just how we all feel. We want to be at the same spot, so younger generations can enjoy their time together.”
Friar, who has two young children, also said this annual trip turns into a large family reunion, where 10-20 people gather together to reconnect each year.
“Going to a burial ground would be sad; it’s not uplifting to see all the burial stones and it’s not a fun place for kids to visit,” Friar explained. “It’s always fun to camp, and that’s how we keep the tradition.”
Still another Grand Junction resident, 56-year-old Judy Kirkham-Beville, prefers cremation to casket burial, though her ashes will likely be partially interred in a local cemetery.
When Kirkham-Beville’s husband died two years ago, his cremated remains were placed in Grand Junction’s Veteran’s Memorial Cemetery.
“I suppose if I was buried, I wouldn’t care,” Kirkham-Beville said. “I wouldn’t be there anyway! However, I am not one who wants to be in a box, so my decision is to have half (of my ashes) interred with Robin, and the other half scattered.”
Cost was definitely a factor when choosing cremation over casket burial, but it’s not the only reason people do it, Kirkham-Beville noted.
“My mom chose to prepay for it (cremation) because she doesn’t want to be stuffed in a box and buried,” she explained. “Dad and (my brother) are choosing it because they don’t want to take up space.”
And 50-year-old Clifton resident Mike Hake took a more environmental stance when choosing cremation over burial,
“Burial is not a good ecological choice, especially near bodies of water, because water seeps through the remains and can contaminate the water supplies, which is even more likely in cemeteries overlooking lakes, ponds, etc. Moreover, I’m not religious, and burials usually come with funerals in a church, so I prefer cremation.”
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