The Cremation Association of North America (CANA) estimates that the cremation rate in the United States will be 58% in the year 2015. The primary reason cited for the continuing increase is cost. For example, a burial plot in one New England cemetery goes for around $10,000 to $12,000 while a base package offered through the Cremation Society of New Hampshire runs between $1,300 and $1,600 – less than a fifth of the cost for an in-ground plot.
But what’s the next step after cremation? Some choose to inter an urn in a cemetery plot, others keep the urn with family but more and more people are choosing to scatter the cremated remains of their loved ones. A retired priest in Weare, New Hampshire has officiated at many services where he says he’s seen families find peace by scattering a loved one’s ashes to the wind. Joanna Trottier and her brother run the Waters Funeral Home in Concord, NH. “Families just can’t afford to purchase a spot for their loved one so they struggle with that concept of where to put them,” says Joanna. But she adds, “A lot of cemeteries do have a scattering area. It’s basically for families that don’t necessarily have the abilities to pay for a lot.”
Center Square Cemetery in Weare, NH dates back to the late 1700s and is one of three active cemeteries in the town. Unfortunately, it’s running out of space. To solve the problem, $85,000 was approved to buy about 41 acres directly behind the existing cemetery. About two thirds of the land will be used for traditional burials complete with headstones, but about 15 acres of wooded area with rockier soil will remain untouched. There, families will be free to scatter the ashes of their loved ones in a beautiful, natural setting.
Money for expansion of the cemetery comes from the Charles and Ethel Eastman Fund, a trust established by the late Mildred Hall and named for her parents. Hall intended the money to be used for projects that would benefit the residents of Weare. And the land comes from Gordon and Paula Brown, a couple who also want to support Gordon’s home town. Jack Dearborn, who helped to coordinate the sale says, “This will allow some degree of reverence attached to scattering the ashes. I think people in town can take advantage of it if they wish to do that. This is what I consider responsible planning going forward for the town.”
Now the town is finalizing the sale and working out the fine points of managing the new scattering grounds. Whether residents choose a traditional burial or cremation and scattering, the cemetery expansion will provide them a final resting place in the town they love. “It’s just a wonderful thing for the people of Weare to be buried in their beloved Weare,” Brown says. “We have seen our town grow, and now we can accommodate.”