Burial Loses Ground to Cremation

June 7, 2009

Author: Josh Shaffer

Source: The News & Observer


At Brown-Wynne Funeral Home, a family can sit in a softly lit viewing room and watch through a window as their loved one enters the cremation chamber. If relatives want to, they can say prayers and scatter flowers over the body before the metal door closes, or even push the button to move the body along. .

Twenty years ago, such closeness with death was unthinkable. Cremations at Raleigh's Brown-Wynne were performed in a garage. But as cremation soars as a low-cost alternative to burial, and the Triangle sees more Hindus and Buddhists whose cultures bring unique funeral rites, Brown-Wynne has moved to turn the once-hidden ceremony into a celebration.

The viewing room is wired for iPods, so mourners can play a list of favorite songs. They can rearrange the chairs, show videos, play bagpipes -- all ideas are welcome.

"If you were an N.C. State fan, we'll have your State memorabilia brought in here," said James Baron, a market manager for Brown-Wynne's network. "You could make the room whatever you want. Everyone grieves differently. Everyone celebrates differently."

The oldest funeral home in North Carolina, Brown-Wynne makes this move as cremation rates climb. In 2008, 23,000 people chose it over burial -- a 21 percent jump over the previous year.