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Cremation Up 58 Percent In Ohio Over Past Decade

For some it may be tough or even morbid to think about, but at some point you or your loved ones will have decide what's going to happen to you when you die. Will you be buried, entombed, cremated? More people than ever before are choosing cremation as their final disposition. In Ohio the number of cremations is rising rapidly. Marsha Bradley from Westerville is only 53 years old, but she's already arranged her memorial service and what will happen to her body when she dies. Bradley wants to be cremated. And she's not alone. The most recent figures from the Cremation Association of North America show about 30 percent of Ohioans will choose cremation as their final disposition.

At first, Bradley said her husband was not on board with the idea.

"He immediately said 'no'," she said.

But Bradley went ahead and made the arrangements anyway. She said after it was a done deal her husband caved and said OK.

"I won't know whether he carries those wishes out or not," Bradley said. Michael Schoedinger is the president of Schoedinger Funeral and Cremation Service in Columbus. He thinks there are a variety of reasons why cremation has grown in popularity.

"Some people prefer the simplicity of it. Others prefer the cost. Some prefer it for environmental reasons. Everyone has their own preferences. Religion could be a part of it as well," he said.

Although Ohio's numbers are below the national average, the percentage of Ohioans choosing cremation has jumped 58 percent.

One possible explanation for the increase is religious leaders have softened their stances on cremation. For example, the Catholic Church dropped its opposition to the practice in the late 1960's. And then there are the people who don't belong to a church. Bill Wappner is president-elect of the National Funeral Directors Association.

"There's more people not affiliated with a church that will be more likely to be cremated," Wappner said.

Recent media reports have suggested the recession is a driving force behind the increase - because generally cremation is cheaper than burial. In central Ohio it costs as little as $800 to be cremated. The average funeral and burial costs about $10,000. But Wappner said don't be fooled, cremation is not always a money saver.

"You can have a full service cremation that is more expensive than burial," he said.

A viewing and memorial service increases the cost of cremation. Wappner said the savings comes in with cemetery costs - cremations do not need a plot, a vault or a headstone.

And Wappner said he has seen little evidence the economy has increased the demand for cremations.

"There could've been a little jump here in the last few months. A lot of people, though, have life insurance policies or have actually pre-paid their funeral," Wappner said.

One of the reasons Bradley settled on cremation is her concern for the environment.

"Preservation of the Earth, and the green campaign that's going on now. And it just doesn't really make a whole lot of sense to be buried," she said.

But cremation is not all that environmentally friendly. Ohio League of Conservation Voters director Jim McGregor explained why. "If people are making the decision for cremation on an environmental perspective or for those reasons then I think that foundation is not accurate. First of all you need a lot of natural gas to consume the body. That's a significant expenditure of energy at a time when we're trying to conserve energy. It also releases carbon into the atmosphere along with a lot of other chemicals," McGregor said.

Ohio Environmental Protection Agency says one crematory produces as much pollution in one year as 150 cars do.

As for what happens after cremation...Schoedinger said 40 percent of his clients scatter the ashes; 40 percent bury them and the rest keep them.

Marsha Bradley said she's not worried about death or what her family decides to do with her cremated remains. She said her faith is what gives her such a lighthearted disposition about death.

"You know what guys? Don't worry about it, I'm fine, you know? So, you can flush them down the toilet. You can keep them. I really don't, I just don't see the point. That person is gone," she said.