After I wrote yesterday's post on alternative choices for burial vessels, it occurred to me that I wasn't really considering all the other options that are out there. For most people, funeral planning comes down to a choice between cremation and burial; burial is the more traditional choice, while cremation is generally perceived as a cheaper, more convenient alternative.
The downsides of traditional burial are obvious: it costs a great deal of money, introduces formaldehyde (and a whole lot of other nasty chemicals) into the earth, and can be a traumatic experience. On the other hand, it offers a feeling of permanence, allowing a place for relatives and survivors to visit and giving the deceased a memorial to his or her life. Scattered ashes, on the other hand, quickly disappear into the earth, which can leave family members feeling bereft. However, a few companies now offer memorial options that will allow survivors to remember their cremated loved ones for a very long time, often at a fraction of the cost of a traditional burial.