Cremation More Popular

Just as the seasons change, so have opinions on burial and cremation. A few decades ago, cremation was considered taboo, but today cremation is just as popular as traditional burial. In the last five years, cremations have jumped statewide, from more than 21 thousand in 1999 to more than 28 thousand in 2002.

Keith Hilliard and daughter Melissa run the century old Hilliard Funeral Home and one of only two crematoriums in East Texas. They say half of the funerals they perform are cremations.

"Our cremations have really grown in the last ten years. In the 90's we were doing probably 2 or three a year," says Keith. Today they do at least 100 a month.

Keith says cremations, a three hour procedure at 1500 degrees, are increasing for two reasons. First the price. The average burial funeral costs at least 5000 dollars. The average cremation 1000. Second, he says more religions are embracing the trend.

"The Buddhist and Hindu are pretty much 100 percent cremations, Episcopal are more for cremations. Methodist, Baptist, Assembly of God are more traditional but the younger generation is coming around for cremation," says Keith.

The Reverend Bill Cook, an Episcopalian minister, says most of the funerals he officiates are cremations.

"I think people have found in actually going to funerals with ashes how dignified they are. Certainly from a theological point-of-view they are perfectly acceptable, ashes to ashes. It is literally true in this case," says Father Cook.

Still, its not for everyone. Even the Hilliards are divided.

"I think I will probably right now choose burial because all of my family has been buried in the past," says Melissa Hilliard.

"My son-in-law, that's the way he wants to go. My wife is leaning that way and I think we will see more of our family do this," says Keith who still hasn't decided what he will do.

But as cremation grows in acceptance, so do the options a family has when they must decided how a loved one will spend their eternal rest.

Michelle Mortensen, reporting.