It is a conversation many of us shy away from, but it is something we will all experience - it’s death. For hundreds of years, the traditional way our culture says goodbye is through a ground burial, but for some, those days are changing.
Phil Schmitz is a funeral director at George Boom Funeral Home in Sioux Falls. He says in his career at George Boom he has seen the tradition change right before his eyes.
"When I came to work in 1985 at George Boom Funeral Home there was about two percent of the population we served chose cremation, but last year and in the current year it’s around 40 percent of families chose it," Schmitz said.
Schmitz says there are several reasons why families chose cremation. Some families do not have a tradition of ground burial. Some like the simplicity of cremation and others do it because cremation is more environmentally friendly.
However, for about one-third of those who choose cremation, Schmitz says, they do it simply because of the cost. Schmitz says if someone chooses to be cremated it could cost around $2,000, as for ground burial, it can be much more expensive.
"If you chose ground burial, then you have the price of the grave space and the digging of the grave. You are probably going to put a marker on there. Then you may have a funeral with a time of sharing at the funeral home and a ceremony; all those things together can easily get up to $10,000," Schmitz said.
Hills of Rest Foundation Director Jeff Gould says he has seen the same thing, some choosing to cut costs after death.
"Obviously the box can be smaller and the cost of digging a space can cost less. So there are savings that way," Gould said.
Cost was one factor in why Ray and Deloris Harris pre-planned a cremation funeral.
"I said to Ray one day, that maybe we should start thinking about cremation and he said he always went that way anyway. That is how we started," Deloris said.
The Harris' pre-planned their cremation funeral at George Boom Funeral Home, but their plans didn't come without concern from one of their six children, Chris Meyer.
"We talked to Chris about it. She did not like it. I asked her what she didn't like about it and she said she wouldn't feel like there was a closure," Deloris said.
"When my parents first approached the cremation part of it, my first instinct was that I don't like it when people are cremation prior to the service because I always felt like there was no closure in that situation," Meyer said.
The Harris' pre-planned their funeral, having a visitation before the cremation, allowing their families to say goodbye one last time.
"Does it matter if I'm buried in the ground or if I'm buried in an urn? It doesn't matter. I think it all has the same meaning," Deloris said.
As for Meyer, she is relieved the plans are complete and Mr. and Mrs. Harris are glad they made the plans for themselves, plans that won't break the bank.
"It really doesn't make any difference to me whether I was buried or cremated, just as long as we're together, that was really the best thing I could think of," Ray Harris said.
Schmitz says he expects America will soon be like Europe, where half of the population chooses ground burial and the other half chooses cremation.