A genuinely new idea in cremation

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—Much ink is spilled in the funeral trade press about "personalizing" funerals. Said personalization often amounts to little more than cutesy corners for caskets (deer if dad was a hunter, a golf tee, etc.). Funeral director BT Hathaway of Fall River, Massachusetts, has come up with something different. We don't promote products on the FCA blog for obvious reasons, but BT's MemryStone deserves a look for standing out as something genuine in a crowd of overpriced highly-marketed gee-gaws. It's quiet, it compels hands-on participation by the grieving, and honestly, it's touching. Let us know what you think in the comments. 


memrystonememrystone-BT Hathaway

Archaeologists have found evidence of aromatic herbs and flowers placed in graves at least 14,000 years ago. And, historically, cremations (funeral pyres of various constructions) have involved the participation of family and community members for thousands of years. Regardless the disposition, less "modernized" societies do not have worries about the identity of remains or the completeness of funeral rites. Multiple eye witnesses can attest the authenticity of every ceremonial step.

Not so with contemporary cremation.

All too often paperwork gets signed and the deceased's body disappears behind closed doors, replaced days later by a nondescript plastic box and a serial number.

Certainly we find ways to grieve and move forward despite this detached and anonymous process, but wouldn't peace of mind come more readily, if survivors felt more connected and confident in the cremation act itself?

As a funeral director in Massachusetts, I have experienced this emptiness myself hundreds of times over the years. Here we do not have the option of owning our own cremation facilities. Instead we must rely on a third party to provide these services. We monitor our cremation vendors and know they follow proper protocols, but the process feels less complete to me. I would much rather oversee each step for myself.

For twenty years, just like everyone who encounters modern cremation, I have gone along with the routines presented to me by the crematory powers that be. I looked around trade shows hoping to find alternatives, and considered a few ideas of my own, but nothing I reviewed could address the physical and emotional gap created by the cremation itself. Instead, I found black plastic boxes as far as the eye could see.

Then one day (yes, it sounds like a cliche but it's true) I saw a decorative box with the word "Love" on the top. Nothing fancy or expensive, the sort of box you find at one of the big chain craft stores. But it triggered a thought, "How do you bring love into the sterile experience of modern cremation?" From that moment, I have devoted myself to transforming the experience of cremation.

After a great deal of research, tinkering and experimentation a uniquely personal alternative has come together. I call it MemryStone. A MemryStone is a ceramic "token" or marker which survivors inscribe with a personal message, place with the deceased, and send through the entire cremation process with their loved one. The ceramic comes through changed but intact with the remains. In this way, MemryStones do three important things. First they create a sense of connection and guardianship at the very beginning of cremation. Second, the handwritten inscription offers a much more personal form of identity assurance as opposed to an institutional serial number. And third, the finished stones serve as a uniquely personal link to the love and memories one must now carry in the heart.

Since March, we have offered MemryStones through our funeral homes to remarkable effect. Survivors have embraced the idea much more strongly than we had imagined, and most have chosen to include one or more MemryStones as part of their cremation arrangements. It turns out that the more we ask, the more we realize how many survivors harbor concerns about the identity of cremated remains. And the more heartfelt messages we see written down on these ceramics, the more we appreciate how much meaning a simple inscription can bring.

In one case, a nephew wrote the word "Peace" as a one word memorial to an uncle who had not known peace for many years. And on our first MemryStone, an 80-year-old son wrote a farewell message to his 106-year-old mother. MemryStones transcend boundaries and open the door to meaning for survivors of all ages, religions and ethnic backgrounds. It seems likely this cremation option will help survivors far beyond our southeast New England home.

Which is not to say you should start asking your local funeral provider to start carrying the MemryStone line. From the very beginning, this product has felt like something survivors should purchase for themselves and bring with them to the arrangements conference. In this way the ceramic also becomes an empowerment tool for cremation consumers. It sends the message that cremation matters, and that the funeral home involved should give special attention to the services provided, no matter how elaborate or simplified. MemryStone makes a difference on many different levels.

So why a posting on the FCA website?

Put simply, MemryStone doesn't belong to a deep pockets corporation. We mold these ourselves in a small basement workshop and need to build a following one person at a time. One day we may have the staff and resources to run consumer surveys and advertising campaigns, but for now we need to gather feedback from as many thoughtful people as we can reach. The Daily Dirge Blog seems like a potent place to begin. After all, FCA is devoted to actively seeking funeral alternatives and has a long history of questioning the status quo. FCA members think, and your feedback should help us to learn and grow.

Please take a few minutes to look at our website  and view our Facebook page. Jot your thoughts and comments here at The Daily Dirge Blog or email me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . If you like what we've started, then please show your support by mentioning MemryStone in your online news streams (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.) and by connecting to our Facebook and Twitter feeds. And if you have an impending cremation in your family, a purchase can be made on our website.

Help people find us, because in 14,000 years we humans haven't changed that much. Participation matters, and MemryStone can fulfill this need for thousands of people if only they know whom to call.

Last Updated ( Friday, 19 July 2013 14:06 )  
Comments (12)
1 Tuesday, 16 July 2013 17:06
Nice idea...
Great job. This is a fantastic idea. The process is so, hidden. This is a great way to keep the family involved.
2 Tuesday, 16 July 2013 20:22
Lisa Carlson
BT, I'm blown out of the water! What a positively superb and unique idea!!!! So original.
3 Tuesday, 16 July 2013 23:00
JM
I like the Memrystone idea. I'm not touchy feely but I can see myself buying one and recommending it to others.

I can also imagine memrystones helping more people see cremation as another form of respectful disposition instead of desecration of a human body.
4 Thursday, 18 July 2013 12:52
Sara at US Funerals Online
I read about this a few weeks ago, and I think it is about the most useful, innovative idea to emerge out of the 'incremental cremation product' market. I can see this becoming an affordable and meaningful item to the future of cremations.
5 Saturday, 27 July 2013 13:34
Ruth E. Bennett, Exec. Dir, FCA-SAZ
A clever idea - but $89 seems like a high price for a quite small piece of ceramic. That's more than 10% of what our members pay for a cremation! Guess I am just not understanding why it should be so much. Seems like I could go to a Paint-Your-Own ceramics and get something similar for about 20% of this price.

Again, I like the idea, just seems too expensive.
6 Monday, 29 July 2013 02:58
johnson
yes i also think that its a innovative and different idea.it may be usefull for us.i can also imagin it helping more people see cremation ...
7 Wednesday, 31 July 2013 11:35
BT Hathaway
Hi Ruth,

I see MemryStone as much more than a piece of ceramic.

I also see an organization which will provide support, direction and guidance to survivors as they work their way through the process of cremation. Right now that means that I will stand on call and offer my 20+ years of experience. But as we grow that will mean having trained resource personnel available to provide help nearly around the clock. It also means rapid turn around for orders and carefully managed quality control. As with funerals, we will only have one chance to get the MemryStone order right.

A paint-your-own ceramics business only needs to understand ceramics. We on the other hand will also need to know funeral service, and know it well, in order to provide the high level of care the MemryStone logo is meant to imply.

Peace,

BT
8 Thursday, 01 August 2013 07:08
Pat Fahrenkrug
I love this idea! I would like to offer this for my pet cremation business. I am not one to ever have issues with prices because I certainly understand value. However, I think it would be much more successful with the pet cremation business if we were able to buy in bulk with a much lower pricing point. I perform about 50 cremations per week and could see a large percentage of my families choosing this option if the price was right. With my prices for a complete cremation starting at $120.00 I don't know if I would be able to offer this option for $89.00. There are some that would pay it (just like there are some that will buy a $400.00 urn) but the majority would pass because of the price. Thanks for thinking of this!
9 Friday, 16 August 2013 13:26
BT Hathaway
Hi Pat,

Hope you find this posting. I'm beginning to work out the details of how MemryStone might address the needs to pet owners.

If you forward contact information to bt (at) memrystone.com, I will get in touch as the details come together.

Thank you for your interest. One of the pet crematories in our area has expressed interest as well.
10 Thursday, 29 August 2013 00:54
Cremator
Its really great idea,.and is fantastic idea of cremation.It is helpfull for most of the people..
11 Wednesday, 08 January 2014 15:16
BT Hathaway
Please note that as of January 7th, the MemryStone price has changed to $29.00. I took some advice early on which led to the initial amount, but I think $29.00 is in line with items of a similar nature found in other settings (ornaments and keepsakes at the local card store for instance).

I have also begun a blog at www.memrylane.com

BT
12 Friday, 14 February 2014 15:17
Kathy Oldrid
I've just read about MemryStone, and I really like the idea. In the past, people in my family have left personal mementoes with their loved ones' remains, but they have always been of of non-lasting type. Whether using cremation or traditional burial, a MemryStone is a wonderful way to leave a lasting message.

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