We have revised, again, our handout about local options for cremation services and have chosen cremation as the theme for our next Annual Meeting Program, which will be held October 23, 2016. Many questions have surfaced this year, triggered especially by the apparent closure of Eternal Blessings Cremation Service, which had been a popular choice.
- Which crematories will now work directly with families?
- Impact of MA electronic filing and fee-paying systems? (e.g., EDRS)
- What happened to Eternal Blessings?
- What is the real environmental impact of cremation?
- What alternatives are available?
We have been seeking answers and investigating options.
In December we posted on our website: 12/2015 notice: The phone number for Eternal Blessings crematory (Guilford VT) is "not in service." They appear to have gone out of business, although the website still advertizes services.
Their website is now (June 2016) down. We've learned that owner Tom Robinson died in October 2015. An obituary found online did not mention the fate of Eternal Blessings; it did mention the earlier history and his pioneering contribution: "...Tom opened the Eternal Flame Crematorium in 1997, the first family-direct cremation service in Vermont and his real work on this earth began. Touching thousands of lives in their greatest time of need, he not only offered an affordable afterlife option, he also did so in such an unpretentious, caring, respectful and personalized way. He also became a true champion to many as he bristled against the idea of potentially high cost and financially compromising offerings from traditional funeral homes."
We know that in 2006 Eternal Flame merged with Vermont Blessings Crematory, founded by Jim Curley, to create Eternal Blessings. Their brochure stated, "Our purpose is to help families and individuals care for their deceased loved ones themselves, by providing Family-Direct services." (No funeral home involvement necessary.) Although located in Vermont, they had for years served residents in western MA, at a slightly higher fee (to cover extra fees required in our state). They assisted families with filling out and filing necessary paperwork.
We've recently learned that at least one MA family was notified in July 2015 that the services would no longer be available to MA consumers. That family had used Eternal Blessings several times in the past and highly recommended the service. This year they had to seek other arrangements, a process that became a high-cost "nightmare." A member of this family will join our panel in October 2016, telling us the tale.
Do any MA crematories offer a similar "family-direct" service? Not really. We know of some crematories that, on occasion, have helped families directly. The norm, however, is to work through funeral homes. MA law prohibits crematories from acting as funeral homes, however. That means the family would have to handle all that required "paperwork" and filing processes themselves. Adding to the challenge is the fact that Massachusetts has implemented electronic systems for death certificates, permits, and payment of the required Medical examiner fee. Funeral homes routinely handle such matters before a body is transported to a crematory. Most families are not prepared to deal with those matters. If your family wishes to care for your own dead, please educate yourselves in advance about the requirements. I recommend starting with the helpful guide on the website of the FCA of Eastern Massachusetts: Caring for Your Own Dead.
Next step? Come to our October 2016 program, and hear our panel discuss cremation pros and cons, environmental impact, and options. We hope to see you there. See Annual Meeting page for date, time, and location.
Disclaimer: The views, opinions and positions expressed here in "Sandy's Blog" are written by one individual (volunteer Sandy Ward) and may or may not reflect the views, opinions or positions of the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Western Massachusetts.