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The Columbarium

A Final Home for Your Cremated Remains

By Linda Banks

“I want to be cremated – but what shall I do with my ashes?”

We have many options available to us when we choose cremation. Cremated remains can be placed in a memorial urn to be displayed prominently in our home, or urns holding ashes can be buried in a family plot. Some people ask that their ashes be scattered from a mountain top, spread onto the ocean floor, or even launched into outer space. Others have small portions of remains placed in jewelry that can be worn.

For many people, however, it is important to have a permanent memorial site for their cremated remains, and a columbarium provides that service. A columbarium is a collection of small vaults or niches that each holds a memorial urn for one or two people.  The names and dates of birth and death are engraved on the outside of each vault, but nothing else is visible to the public view. This above-ground burial place for ashes may be built as a part of an existing structure, or as a free standing unit. They range greatly in the number of vaults the structure contains. Many columbaria are built as part of memorial parks with fountains, ponds and gardens, as a place where family members can gather to reflect, or meditate.  

Many churches offer a columbarium for members who choose cremation and want their final remains interred near their church. It is comforting for people to know that their final resting place will be adjacent to their meaningful place of worship. The columbarium can become a focal point for family members, who can visit whenever they wish.     

As more people choose cremation over traditional burial, many cemeteries have started building columbaria as an option. In addition to burial plots for people who choose traditional burial, private and public cemeteries now offer vaults to hold cremation memorial urns in a columbarium.   

The Mobile Society

         We are a very mobile society, and many people find they no longer have ties to their town of birth, or identify with a home town they grew up in. Universities and colleges often resonate as an important time in a person’s life, and the campus can hold special meaning.  In recognizing this strong identification, an increasing number of universities are building columbaria on their campuses. Inurnment in the university columbarium is usually available to alumni, students, faculty, staff, trustees and immediate family members.  Many alumni purchase niches in the columbarium next to college friends who have also purchased niches. The alumni association at each college can provide information about their columbarium, if available.

         The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) provides burial and interment benefits for eligible veterans, their spouses and dependents. Cremated remains are buried or inurned in the national cemeteries in a similar manner with the same honors as casketed remains. The National Cemetery Administration (“NCA”) maintains 131 national cemeteries in 40 states and Puerto Rico.  Information about the NCA cemeteries can be found at their website: http://www.cem.va.gov/.

In addition, many states have established veterans’ cemeteries. Visit the VA website for information about cemeteries that also have columbaria, or by calling 1-800-827-1000. The VA maintains a page of information specifically on memorial benefits

If you wish to have the memorial urn holding your cremated remains placed in a permanent memorial site, we hope the options presented on this page provide you with some ideas.

 

Linda Banks provided extended end-of-life care for her beloved Aunt who was like her mother. When her brother died suddenly last year, she was instrumental in orchestrating all of the details of his final wishes to be cremated. Linda has been an active blogger for ten years, including blogging about Willie Nelson and his family. Willie told her recently that he reads her blog every day. 

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