Content here represents the voice of SIGNATURE SUNSETS, an informational initiative designed to broaden and brighten horizons in the funerary domain.

The material is an outgrowth of a pre-planning reference book, Pondering Leaves: Composing and Conveying Your Life Story's Epilogue, written by the author of this blog.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012



In case you haven’t been tuned into the death management scene in recent years, you are apt to be pleasantly surprised. Prepare to erase stagnant old stereotypes and replace them with updated images. 

Additional methods for bodily disposition are being introduced in other countries, with potential for infiltration in the United States at some time in the future.  Already, some states have legislated approval for alkaline hydrolysis, and operations are on the threshold of being initiated; in fact, the service has already been launched at the Anderson-McQueen funeral home facilities in St. Petersburg, Florida.  Beyond dissolution options, opportunities to donate organs and tissues for relevant (and sometimes uniquely meaningful) causes have proliferated everywhere. 

Increasingly, “being green” is “in.”  Concern for conservation has prompted advocates to question and alter the way bodies are buried.  The underground milieu has been scrutinized, causing realization that there’s a lot more than decomposing material under the surface.  “What you can’t see won’t hurt you” may no longer be the case.  The reality of wasted wood products, indestructible metal pieces, and potentially toxic embalming chemicals has motivated an emergence of natural cemeteries where only biodegradable matter is allowed to accompany a decedent into subterranean territory.  What began as an initiative in the United Kingdom is now spreading across this country.  There are newly established burial grounds as well as hybrid designations within traditional cemeteries whereby a section is utilized according to natural burial principles determined by the Green Burial Council. 

A hot trend toward rising cremation rates is having a profound impact on the death care industry.  To offset financial voids due to a dearth of casket sales and the services that go hand in hand with them, funeral home operators are diversifying their offerings.  The inherent flexibility of memorial services in contrast to funerals allows for conduct of them in varied settings, in atypical indoor venues as well as outdoors.  Requests for unusual approaches are more apt to be heeded.  Personalization is paramount these days, with all kinds of individualized presentations, including thematic displays and even stage-like set-ups in some cases. 

Wedding planners and other types of event facilitators have been joined by a bevy of funerary event planners and cohorts in diverse roles.  Training programs for celebrants prepare individuals to set up independent practices and officiate at customized services that veer away from standardization.  Receptions have become more elaborate; caterers are apt to specialize in food geared toward commemorative occasions. 

Manufacturers have flooded the market with all kinds of merchandise that bespeaks novelty of concepts and designs.  It can actually feel energizing to shop for items like memento gifts and, certainly, urns.  Artists have created vessels for this purpose that are works of fine art featured in galleries.  

A wave of architectural splendor has permeated the construction of mausoleums and columbaria.  Elements of light and natural beauty have been incorporated to render a soothing environment.  Modernization has endowed dreary domains with a “face lift.”

No matter how distant one’s own death may be, this is an exciting time to explore the contemporary arena of trends and practices.  It’s never too early to begin planning an exit strategy that can be intriguing for the planner now, and greatly appreciated by loved ones later.

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