Another choice: co-op funerals

Beechwood Cemetery, Ottawa. Photo: Shanta Rohse, Creative Commons, some rights reserved.

Beechwood Cemetery, Ottawa. Photo: Shanta Rohse, Creative Commons, some rights reserved.

Decades ago, while still living in Honolulu, I paid a nominal fee for a life-time membership in something called the Funeral and Memorial Society of Hawaii. This was a small, very low-budget co-op, for handling memorials, burials or cremations at comparatively modest costs.

Now, that path not for everyone. But those who value solid caskets in hardwood or precious metal are very well-served already. What about those who dislike waste? Or those with little extra money to sink in the ground?

If I remember correctly, back when I joined the Hawaii society they even offered a wicker casket that would rot quite nicely. Or basic caskets. Or modest urns, for cremation. All in relatively-inexpensive price ranges.

As it happens, I come from frugal stock. I’d be fine with a hole in the back yard – the same way I’ve sent off family pets. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. (My friends the worms will make my remains new again.) But that’s not usually allowed, so something more is needed.

Of course, when we moved to Ottawa I would not easily be able to use those Honolulu-based services. I decided to die later, basically. It’s easy to procrastinate in your 40′s.

How nice, then, to read that something similar has just opened in Ottawa. A service that promises to not “up-sell”.

As reported by the CBC , that’s a basic principle of the Funeral Co-operative of Ottawa.

I can’t vouch for any or every particular example of this movement. But the movement itself is a fine extension of co-op principles into a service many will encounter, sooner or later.

According to coverage in the Ottawa Citizen, it’s an idea with strong appeal, or so says new Ottawa co-op volunteer president Mark Goldblatt:

…Goldblatt, a 61-year-old lifelong devotee of the co-op movement, thinks his organization will be able to use its built-in advantage to undercut the competitors, and in the process give grieving relatives a break from profit-seeking salespeople.

“We don’t have to worry about maximizing returns to shareholders,” he said. “At the time of distress, where you’re making decisions within a 40-minute period, I think people would find it advantageous to go to a provider that operates on a not-for-profit basis.”

The strongest proof of the venture’s potential is the Coopérative Funéraire de l’Outaouais. Founded in 1979, it now handles more than 70 per cent of all funerals on the other side of the Ottawa River.

Here’s more on Coopérative Funéraire de l’Outaouais, in French and in English. And here’s a list of those running the new Ottawa co-op.

Geographic availability is definitely an issue. Co-op funeral societies are still few and far between. There’s one in Calgary that has quite a lot of useful information, including a “history of” page and a list of other such societies or co-ops in Canada. I spent a little while searching for a list of similar societies in the U.S. and I am still looking. (If you find one, please add that as a comment.)

Is this sort of service an option in your neck of the woods? Should it be?

Choice is good, so I hope this becomes more widely available.

Because – somewhere, sometime – death does come to us all.

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4 Responses to “Another choice: co-op funerals”

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  1. Pete Klein says:

    The amount of money and land we waste upon the dead is truly amazing.
    After the funeral, very few people ever come back to visit the grave. Within a few years, the number of visits drop until eventually no one visits.
    Eventually, no one will visit because the last human will die.

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  2. Michael Greer says:

    I never worry about the “waste of land” part of this discussion. In many big urban areas, the cemeteries often stand as the biggest green spaces left in the city. Developers would pave over every inch of landscape if they could, and it’s good to have something stand in their way from time to time.

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  3. Pete Klein says:

    Cemeteries are also a good place to learn how to drive. Lots of twists and turns with few people to run over. Cemeteries are where I first learned how to drive.
    Need more cemeteries? Easy. Convert golf courses into cemeteries. They already have 9 to 18 holes.

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  4. Claudia MacDonald says:

    I do not want to be cremated (releasing highly toxic fumes into our already polluted environment) nor do I want to be embalmed…what would one do this for…seems uncivilized to me.
    What my plan is: to be buried in my son’s back yard in Maine. That is where he wishes his remains to be deposited as well.
    All one must do in Maine and in New York State (and probably is true in other states/countries as well) is to get a permit that designates the burial spot as that, dig the hole, put the deceased in said hole and fill.
    I love the idea that I will make great fertilizer.
    One sister hates this idea. She says she won’t be able to visit my grave. I told her she can visit the beautiful tree I hope to become.
    Of course, my plan, if others adapt it, will put a dent in some folks income but that’s progress (or perhaps regress as prior to the early 1900′s that’s how we buried our dead in the states).
    No coffin needed. Just put me in a cotton flannel nightie.

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