Many people do not know they can plan a funeral or burial that is out of the ordinary or alternative to more familiar services or arrangements. The following information is not an endorsement of any one approach over the other but simply an offering of information that illustrates choice. We believe it is everyone’s choice to live as one chooses until one dies. Why not have choices with one’s funeral and burial planning as well?
Know your rights
Shopping for Funeral Services is a document that provides extensive information for consumers on funeral planning, particularly the Funeral Rule paragraph. After reading through it you will be much better prepared to talk to a funeral provider.
The Funeral Consumers Alliance has a number of very helpful guides that may be viewed on their website.
For other states, go to the FEO’s website and open the “Consumer Information” and “Consumer Rights” pages.
1. Local Funeral Director
Many families have a local funeral home they are comfortable with but it is becoming more common these days for consumers to “shop around” – prices can vary widely. According to the National Funeral Director’s Association, the average funeral in 2017 cost $7,360 (plus $3500+ cemetery costs). You can spend less by carefully choosing services and options. Ask for an "immediate burial" (no embalming, visitation or service) which should save you $1500+. Ask for the experience you want; a good funeral director will help you with almost any request. Any funeral director would be pleased to provide you with a copy of their general price list.
Funerals360 is an information-rich directory that lets you search for funeral homes in a selected radius.
Parting provides a list of basic prices.
Funeral Consumers Alliance of Maine 2016 Price List Survey shows prices for funeral homes in Maine.
2. Home Funeral
In the State of Maine the “authorized person” responsible for disposition of the body is the next of kin or the person given signed authority by said next of kin. This person may keep the body at home, build the coffin, do all the paperwork, transport the body to the cemetery, and hold their own memorial service themselves. Making Final Arrangements by Authorized Persons brochure is a helpful guide to the paperwork process. Cemetery or cremation costs would be the only major expense: cemetery costs are $3500+, the crematory fee is about $350. If you buy a "alternative cremation container," from the crematory or any funeral director expect to pay $30 - $100.
For other states, the book Final Rights has a summary of the funeral laws and regulations for every state.
3. Blend options 1 and 2
For example, tell the funeral home you want to keep the body at home and will make a coffin, and you want them to do the paperwork and transport the body. ASK for what you want; a good funeral director will help.
Alternative In-Ground Burial Options
1- Family Cemetery
People can be buried on their own property in Maine if you have designated a portion of your property as a “family burying ground.” Check with the local municipal officials, then follow the simple rules laid out by the Maine State Law. Since there are no cemetery expenses, this can be a very low/no cost approach. Here is a helpful document on how to dig a grave in the winter.
2-Green Cemeteries or Natural Burials
Maine now has two “green” cemeteries, Cedar Brook Burial Ground in Limington and Rainbow’s End in South Orrington, (Joan Howard, (207) 825-3843, JoanHoward@att.net), which provide space to bury a body in a natural setting. Burr Cemetery in Freeport has set aside a portion of their grounds for natural burials. The body may not be embalmed, and the container must be biodegradable. This option is less expensive than conventional cemeteries because vaults and monuments are not allowed, so your cost may be about $1200.
Here’s a list of the green cemeteries in the USA and Canada.
Green Burial Council is an independent, nonprofit organization founded to encourage ethical and environmentally sustainable deathcare practices, and to use the burial process as a means of facilitating the acquisition, restoration and stewardship of natural areas.
Green Burial is a video showing a new generation of undertakers attempting to “green up” the funeral industry with burials that go easy on the land.
“When we realize that we’re walking around in bodies that were soil before they turned into us—and that we’re just borrowing the elements while we’re alive, and that we should return them in good condition when we’re done with them—we’ll have come a long way toward understanding the real cycle of life.”
- Cynthia Beal
1. Local Funeral Director
Your local funeral director can take care of any arrangements for cremation. An average full service cremation cost $6,260 in 2017. Ask for a "direct cremation" (no embalming, visitation or service) which should save you $1500+.
2. Direct Cremation Service
A direct cremation service is a business run by a licensed funeral director that provides no-frills cremations, a less expensive alternative. Ask if their direct cremation price includes the crematory fee. Here is a list from 2017 of Low Cost Cremation Services in Maine that cost less than $1300.
Pacemakers must be removed before cremation (they may explode). Contact a medical professional or qualified funeral director.
Crematoria in Maine that service individuals:
Gracelawn Memorial Park and Crematory in Auburn - (207) 782-3741
Mount Hope Cemetery and Crematory in Bangor - (207) 945-6589
Pine Grove Crematory in Bangor - (207) 942-3822
Maine Coast Crematory in Searsport- (866) 338-9199
Great Works Crematory in N Berwick - (207) 651-5686
Brooklawn Memorial Park and Crematory in Portland - (207) 773-7679
Laurel Hill Cemetery Associates in Saco - (207) 282-9351
3. Alkaline Hydrolysis
A more environmentally-friendly alternative to cremation, Alkaline hydrolysis, sometimes called water or green cremation, is a water-based dissolution process for human remains that uses alkaline chemicals, heat, pressure and sometimes agitation, to accelerate natural decomposition. Direct Cremation Services in Belfast has installed the equipment to offer this service.
4- Scattering Ashes
No section of Maine State Law regulates scattering ashes. Be respectful, be discreet, get permission if you want to scatter ashes on someone else’s property. So You’re Cremated, Now What? a book by Jesse Klafel, subtitled “Over One Hundred Creative Ways to Scatter Your Ashes” is a way to start thinking and discussing the subject of cremation as a considered choice for you or a loved one.
Burial at sea
Full-body Burial at Sea is expensive and strictly regulated. Burial at Sea Regulations. Burial must take place in at least 600 feet of water, which, in Maine, means thirty plus miles off shore. Bodies must be sewn into a canvas shroud with additional weight and the coffin must have a specified number of holes drilled in it. There are a number of Marine Transportation Services and Fishing Charters throughout Maine that offer burial at sea services.
Equinox Island Transit in Rockland
RockN'Reel in South Portland
Diver Ed in Bar Harbor
New England Burials at Sea servicing the East Coast, California and Washington.
Whole Body Donation
1- Medical School Donation
Any resident of Maine may donate their body to the medical school at the University of New England in Biddeford’s Body Donor Program. The University will pay for the transportation, embalming and cremation of the body. Tufts University in Boston’s Anatomical Gift Program will also accept bodies from Maine, either a prearranged donation or you can call at the time of death.
For other states, here’s a list of academic Donor Programs.
2- Body Donation Companies
There are now companies that will pick up a body at no cost to you and use it or parts of it for research, testing, etc. When they have finished with their research they cremate the body and return the ashes to the family. New England Donor Services coordinates organ and tissue donation in the six New England states and Bermuda. Final Rights has a nationwide list of Non-Academic Whole Body Donation Programs to choose from.
NPR offers a very informative four-part audio series on body donation:
Calculating the Value of Human Tissue
Little Regulation Poses Problems Tracking Tissue
Am I a Tissue Donor, Too?
The Seamy Side of the Human Tissue Business
The Anatomy of Human Tissue Profits an interactive experience on what human body parts are worth.
How Much is Your Dead Body Worth? a 50-minute documentary on modern day grave robbery that is worth watching.
Facts and Myths from the American Transplant Foundation.