Half in US choose cremation as views on death change

Story highlights

  • In 2016, just over half (50.2%) of Americans chose cremation, while 43.5% opted for burial
  • Cost, geography, religion, tradition are all factors in the change

(CNN)The memorial service he arranged for a local jazz musician after the cremation is a point of pride for Stephen Kemp of Haley Funeral Directors in Southfield, Michigan.

"I cleared out half of my chapel. They brought in all their bands and friends, and they played music," he said, recalling how the musician's friends arranged the deceased's alto, tenor and soprano saxophones on the wall around a photograph of the man. "The priest came in and gave a small eulogy, and they went out of the funeral home playing 'When the Saints Go Marching In.' "
    Next, the mourners went to a club in downtown Detroit to host a "jazz breakout," Kemp said. The entire day was "a wonderful tribute" to a man who had devoted his life to music.
    As a funeral director, Kemp believes, his job is to turn mourners' wishes into reality. In many cases, today's reality is cremation.
    In 2016, just over half (50.2%) of Americans chose cremation, while 43.5% opted for burial, according to a new report from the National Funeral Directors Association. Though the trend is new, this is not the first time the cremation rate exceeded the burial rate: 2015 was the first year these rates flipped, the report indicates, with 48.5% of