by Lori Johnson, APR
Cremation - once considered a lesser burial alternative - is now the fastest-growing trend in funeral services. According to the Cremation Association of America, by next year nearly 45 percent of Americans will choose cremation-double the rate of just 15 years ago. The rise in cremation has also increased the demand for personalized cremation services and the need for memorializing loved ones.
Brad Whinery, owner of Reflection Pointe Gardens, has designed an innovative way to address the rising needs by building a cremation garden in Oklahoma City. Reflection Point Gardens is not only innovative in that it is the first cremation garden in the nation, but also in the way it integrates high-tech features into the park-like setting.
Reflection Pointe Gardens’ four-acre grounds are landscaped with trees, reflection ponds, benches and walking paths. What are absent are the traditional cemetery headstones and markers. “Visitors won’t be able to tell Reflection Pointe Gardens is a burial setting,” said Whinery. “It looks and feels like a park celebrating life, as it should be.”
The other thing visitors won’t see is the integrated high-tech technology that helps families locate and memorialize their loved ones. Whinery developed a location-based app that corresponds with a smart chip buried with the remains. Each resting place is coded with a unique GPS point so people visiting the gardens can use a smartphone or tablet to locate a specific site. Additionally, each resting place will have a separate website that can be customized with information, photographs, name, dates and life story. The personalized website will appear on smart phones or tablets instantly when families reach their loved one’s resting place.
Whinery, who has owned several funeral homes, said cemeteries have changed very little in the past 150 years, and yet new generations of adults are demanding more personalized and meaningful burials. “Reflection Pointe Gardens’ use of GPS location and microchip technology will allow families to view far more “life story” information for loved ones than physical memorials permit.”
Psychologists say remembrance practices, such as a permanent memorialization, are an important emotional function for survivors. It helps bring closure and allows the healing process to begin. Families often skip this part in the cremation process because there isn’t a body or grave site to visit.
“Historically, the main reasons for choosing cremation were the desire to save money or simplify final arrangements,” said Whinery. Families would either scatter the remains or put the ashes in an urn.
“Over time, it became evident that neither of these were the best options for families who wanted to memorialize a loved one.
While urns created a focal point and a physical resting place for the remains, Whinery said urns often end up forgotten or stored as they were handed down through family members. Whinery estimates as many as 15 thousand ashes are in Oklahoma County alone, and much as 75 percent of those are out of sight.
“We found that after only two generations the people in possession of the urn didn’t have a deep connection with the remains and didn’t want to keep them,” said Whinery. “What do you do with the ashes then?”
Scattering ashes also presented challenges as the years passed. “We hear many stories of families years later regretting not having a permanent resting place to regularly visit or bring younger generations to share stories and honor the memory of the deceased.”
Reflection Pointe Gardens offers several options for cremation burials. Families can bury the remains at a permanent site - either in the ground or within a 45-foot granite wall memorial wall - scatter ashes in a designated meadow or place them in an ossuary. Families can have personalized services with any of these options.
“It is a natural, human desire to want memoralization, and now we can offer that service for people who choose cremation,” added Whinery.
Reflection Pointe is a family owned business with more than 60 years of experience in the funeral industry. Brad and Glenda Whinery and their son, Chris, along with Carl Billey, have owned and operated six funeral homes throughout Oklahoma. They established Affordable Cremation Service in 1999 to serve the needs of those who desire a simple, dignified disposition for themselves or their loved ones without the added cost of involving a traditional funeral home. For more information visit us online www.reflectionpointe.