ELYRIA — Changing times and attitudes have changed the way society feels about cremation versus burial for loved ones.
In 2013, about 43 percent of final arrangements made by Elyria’s Laubenthal Mercado Funeral Home included cremation of loved ones’ remains, which is why the business recently opened an on-site cremation service.
The Roman Catholic Church for centuries did not allow cremation, said Phil Mercado, a partner and co-owner in the funeral business on Chestnut Ridge Road, adjacent to state Route 57.
“I was raised Catholic and I certainly remember when that was the case, before the church changed its rules to permit it (in 1963),” Mercado said.
Some faiths still do not allow cremation.
“We’ve come a long way,” Mercado said as he talked about a more accepting stance on cremation, driven in large part by today’s economics.
The average cost of cremation is $1,675, Mercado said.
That compares with the average cost of a traditional funeral with embalming, casket, burial and vault, which ranges from $8,000 to $10,000.
Funeral directors also are finding that cremation is a viable option for the growing number of people who no longer have life insurance with which to pay for funeral expenses, Mercado said.
Located in a relatively small brick structure that some people have mistaken for a garage, the facility enables the funeral home to perform its own cremation services instead of contracting for them with a Cleveland-area crematorium as they once did, Mercado said.
Formally known as Lorain County Cremation Services, it is the first in Elyria, but not the first in the county. Others are in North Ridgeville and Lorain, Mercado said.
The project cost about $250,000 including the building and equipment.
Laubenthal Mercado will make its facility available to other area funeral homes, Mercado said.
If the number of cremations dramatically rises, there is room to add a second crematory.
The process itself typically sees a dressed body placed into a disposable wood or cardboard container, which is moved into the stainless steel cremation chamber, where remains are reduced to ash and bone fragments (which later are pulverized into a dust-like substance) after being burned for 90 to 120 minutes at 1,600 degrees Fahrenheit.
The fully-computerized process is monitored not only by Mercado and other licensed personnel of the staff, but by remote monitors at the Florida headquarters of the company that manufactured the crematory equipment.
Cremation also has grown in popularity due to the views of some people who don’t like the idea of burial in the ground.
“In the end, decomposition takes place regardless,” Mercado said. “It’s a question of whether it occurs slowly (via burial) or quickly (via cremation).”
A trend like any other, the increase in cremation nationally began in California and Florida.
“The last time I looked, cremations have reached nearly 75 percent in California,” Mercado said.
About 2.5 million people die each year in America. In 2011, 42 percent of those were cremated, according to figures from the National Funeral Directors Association.
Another benefit of cremation is that it doesn’t pressure families to have an immediate funeral.
“It gives people flexibility for having a memorial service at a later time, say when family members and others are all able to come together,” Mercado said. And services aren’t just done in a funeral home these days. People have them in parks, homes or lodges (Elks, Moose, etc.).”
Mercado acknowledged that cremation was frowned upon by many in the funeral business because it bypassed sales of caskets and vaults.
“I’m there for the family’s needs, not ours,” Mercado said. “I really do consider it a privilege to serve people who could go anywhere but choose to come to us.”
Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or firstname.lastname@example.org.