From eco-friendly to fun: Is this the future of funerals?

“It’s unlimited right now what we’re being asked to do.”

From eco-friendly to fun: Is this the future of funerals?
Mark Busch shows Cleveland 19's Julian Glover some of the unique options available for cremated remains. (Source: WOIO/Devin Lamb)

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - We celebrate birthdays. We celebrate marriages. Some people even celebrate divorces.

“Now, we’re seeing that people not only want to have all of those celebratory events through the course of their lifetime, but they want to have a celebratory event to recognize their passing,” said Mark Busch, co-owner of Busch Funeral and Crematory Services.

From eco-friendly to fun: Is this the future of funerals?

Since joining the family business full time in 1982, Busch says he’s seen funerals and burials shifting towards non-traditional.

“Whether we want to admit it or not, we have a secular movement going on with personal preferences,” Busch said. “So while you still have those older generations who are still members of mainline denomination churches and want the traditional, the younger generations are moving towards this, yes, we’re going to honor mom and dad’s wishes, but what we’re getting down to is we want people to walk away from a service saying, ‘Wow! That made me feel better!’”

Mark Busch shows Cleveland 19's Julian Glover some of the unique options available for cremated remains.
Mark Busch shows Cleveland 19's Julian Glover some of the unique options available for cremated remains. (Source: WOIO/Devin Lamb)

“We’re moving towards celebratory events,” said Busch.

In addition to funeral directors, Busch Funeral and Crematory Services has six certified funeral celebrants on staff. The celebrants work closely with families to learn the life story of the deceased then plan custom ceremonies which can be held on and off-site, giving that final goodbye a more person feeling than a traditional funeral.

Busch says they have organized and held services at the 78th Street Studios arts complex in Cleveland, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, various high schools, The Holiday charter boat, and both the Edgewater Yacht Club and Cleveland Yachting Club, where one memorial service included a steam boat whistle salute.

“We’ve just seen an unbelievable dynamic change in terms of what families are asking of us, just recently within the last 20 to 25 years," said Busch. "It’s unlimited right now what we’re being asked to do. If you ask us, and we have adequate time to pull it all together, it’s pretty amazing. It’s almost somewhat exciting!”

Technology is also a growing trend in the funeral industry.

Anyone with access to a computer, tablet or smartphone can view on and off-site services by Busch from anywhere in the world.

Funeral technology

“We just had a service at a church for a gentleman, and we had 1,071 people viewing the service through our technology,” said Busch. “We have a person that, it’s her responsibility to go to the location, logistically find out how to get the audio and the video and the connectivity all done."

Busch says they are also working with local nursing homes to live stream services to residents who may be unable to attend in person due to limited mobility and transportation.

“Here at this facility in Parma, we have invested the equipment physically in one of the visitation areas that has a mounted camera that can get the casket and the person officiating right there being streamed live," said Busch. “We’ve allocated the resources to that because we know it makes a difference.”

Busch says he’s seen around a 50 percent increase in cremations over his career. He’s says there has also been an increase in unique options available for cremated remains, many of which can be seen on display at the Remembrance Centers located in four of Busch’s seven funeral homes.

“We are just seeing a great, great change in terms of how they want to take personal possession of their loved one, how they want to stay connected," said Busch.

At Busch’s Remembrance Center in Parma, we saw unique items ranging from urns shaped like golf balls and motorcycle engines, to sun dials, garden globes and water fountains that hold cremated remains.

Memory Glass is a company that suspends cremated remains in solid glass sculpture and keepsake jewelry. Lifeware incorporates ashes into a glass glaze for ceramics like coffee mugs and bowls.

Looking for something a little more out of this word? Busch offers Celestial Memorial options starting at $1,295.

“Space launch. It’s one of those discussion things," said Busch. “You know, ‘I just want to be launched into space’. Well, it’s available!”

While Busch says they haven’t had anyone select a Celestial Memorial just yet, many families have chosen Eternal Reefs.

“They’re actually going to be placed within a bio-friendly reef reconstruction project," said Busch.

Cremated remains are mixed with environmentally safe concrete to make a reef ball. Over time, the reef ball creates a new marine habitat for sea life. The Eternal Reefs range in price from $2,995 to $7,495.

Cremated remains are mixed with environmentally safe concrete to make a reef ball. Over time, the reef ball creates a new marine habitat for sea life
Cremated remains are mixed with environmentally safe concrete to make a reef ball. Over time, the reef ball creates a new marine habitat for sea life

The Living Urn can also be seen on display and is designed to grow a memory tree, plant, or flowers with cremated remains. Busch offers the Living Urn for $150.

The Living Urn is designed to grow a memory tree, plant, or flowers with cremated remains.
The Living Urn is designed to grow a memory tree, plant, or flowers with cremated remains. (Source: WOIO/Devin Lamb)

For people who are interested in eco-friendly but don’t want to be cremated, Busch also offers green burial options, with formaldehyde-free embalming and non-toxic, bio-degradable burial containers and shrouds.

Ohio has a handful designated green burial sites, including Foxfield Preserve, a nature preserve cemetery located in Stark County. Burial fees at Foxfield start at $3,200.

Foxfield Preserve, a nature preserve cemetery located in Stark County, is one of a handful designated green burial sites in Ohio.
Foxfield Preserve, a nature preserve cemetery located in Stark County, is one of a handful designated green burial sites in Ohio. (Source: WOIO/Devin Lamb)

Busch says his business is only conducting about 6 to 8 green burials a year right now, but a lot of people are curious and asking questions, so expect the trend to keep growing.

“I don’t know what consumer preferences are going to look like in 30 years, but I can tell you right now that if your funeral home that you’re choosing to care for your loved one is not somewhat extremely flexible in what they’re willing to do and help your family create, you probably need to think about choosing a different provider,” said Busch. “I encourage families to explore their options before the need arises. Go visit that funeral home you may be calling, because that funeral home you called 15 years ago for grandpa may not be able to do some of the things you want to do today.”

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