When that choice is made, Matanky said, he considers whether the decision was made with awareness of Jewish tradition and teachings before determining if the deceased is deserving of the traditional mourning period.
Cunningham said the Catholic church also considered cremation an act of rebellion, based largely on the church's rocky relationship with the Masons, who cremated their dead as a statement against the church and its belief in the resurrection.
But those feelings have tempered over the centuries, and the Roman Catholic Church is OK with cremation as long as it is not done as a statement against the church, Cunningham said.
Noting that his mother was was cremated 10 years ago, but Cunningham plans to be buried.
"Don't ask me why. I guess I'm kind of a traditionalist," he said.
Industry trends, however, show that Cunningham and others who choose burial will be in the minority before the end of the decade, as more people weigh tradition and culture against their own personal beliefs and understanding of death.
Standing in a showroom of urns, Stewart Walker, co-owner of Walker Funeral Homes, which operates a crematorium in predominantly Mormon Utah County, recalls a time when they didn't have one urn in stock. Now they offer a variety of containers that can biodegrade in water or soil, easily slide open for scattering or come in keepsake sets, allowing loved ones to have a reminder of the deceased close by, like Bassey has on her bookshelf.
"We used to do things one way," Walker said. "Now they have processes that can turn ashes into industrial diamonds or put them into fireworks. If it's legal we can do it. That's the changing philosophy."
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