Death is inevitable and how people choose to be buried is changing.
At one time, a traditional burial with a casket and cemetery plot was the norm, but increasingly, more families are opting for cremation. According to a 2016 study by the National Funeral Directors Association, 50.2 percent of Americans select cremation over burial.
In the Killeen area, that ratio is higher, with 60 percent opting for cremations and 40 percent choosing burials, said Rachel Dwyer, general manager of Heritage Funeral Home and Killeen Funeral Home. The reason is not always that cremation costs less.
“People move; it’s a transient society here, so many families want to take the cremains with them,” said Dwyer.
Sadly, not all cremains are treated with respect. Many families keep an urn in their homes, but cremains often lose their significance from one generation to the next. Others may store an urn in a closet and forget about it. About three months ago, Dwyer received several calls from people who found urns in homes they were moving into; one urn was even found alongside a road.
“What to do with cremains, either from your family or found, helped feed into our project to respectfully take care of them,” she said.
That project — “The New Heritage Cremation Project” at the Killeen Memorial Park, 3516 Lake Road — will offer families the chance to inter the cremated remains of loved ones Nov. 18 at no charge in the business’ Reflections Mausoleum.
The space can hold about 50 urns on a first-come basis, but reservations are required.
To participate, a family member must come to the main office before the event during business hours to complete an interment authorization form.
“People should not bring the urn with them when they register but drop it off the week before or bring it with them on the day of the event,” said Dwyer. There is no shape, size or material requirements for the urn, but it must be labeled with the deceased’s first and last names.
Families may also bring a photo of their loved ones. If a family can’t attend the event, it must still register for a space and then leave the urn with the staff.
A brief ecumenical celebration starts at 2 p.m., which will include live music, light refreshments and a chance for each family to speak about their loved one. A balloon release will close the ceremony.
Founded in 1959, Killeen Memorial Park sits on 26 acres and offers a variety of burial and cremation options. It owns a crematorium in Temple.
“This is the first time the Killeen Memorial Park has offered a free cremation interment, because we wanted to do our part in providing a respectfully interment space for families that don’t know what to do with cremains,” Dwyer said.
The event may be repeated every five to 10 years, depending on the initial response, she said.