Burning Up Over Direct Mail From The Cremation Society

March 13, 2014

A few months ago I wrote a lighthearted post about turning 40. To be honest, the event came and went with very little drama, and I still don’t have a gray hair to show for it (knock on wood).

But recently I received something in the mail that caught me a bit off guard. I can’t be sure it has anything to do with the whole age thing, but one unsuspecting day, I stuck my hand in my mail box and pulled out a direct mail piece from the National Cremation Society.

I mean, really. Has it come to this?

Seems it has. Death is big business: the caskets, the headstones, the flowers. The feeding of people following a funeral/memorial service (I never understood why people need to eat after someone dies. So bizarre.). So it’s understandable that there’s plenty of marketing around all the products and services that are available when one passes on.

Naturally I read what the Cremation Society had to say. I learned the organization was founded in 1973 – the same year as my birth. Coincidence? I think not.

National Cremation Society

National Cremation Society

It “delivers over 100,000 services” annually and boasts more than 160,000 members. I assume a “member” may be one who has plans in the works to use cremation services, but honestly, that’s not entirely clear. They market cremation as less complicated, less expensive and essentially decision-free. In a word: “easy.” And all of that sounds great, but it make me wonder: what exactly gets a person on their mailing list?

I’ve never signed up for anything death related. I’ve never planned or executed any part of a funeral or memorial service. And yes, I’m 40. But with any luck I shouldn’t be that close to my own end of life, right?

Here’s the thing: the NCS is preaching to the choir. I’m already on board. It’s environmentally friendlier than burial. To their point, it’s easy…seems like a nice little burden to remove from my family members’ plates. And frankly (and most important), I’m a little claustrophobic and afraid of snakes. A cemetery is no place for me to visit while I’m alive, let alone a spot to for me to spend all of eternity.

But getting a mailer touting cremation services – especially when you just hit a big age milestone – feels a little disconcerting. I imagine it’s like the impact of receiving an AARP membership invitation, but a lot more permanent.

NCS#2Through all of this, I have to admit I may not be running out to sign up for an NCS membership, but the mailing did spark an action. It pushed me to have a conversation reinforcing my desire to use said services between my brother and me.

So kudos to the National Cremation Society – thank you for giving me something to think about and the nudge toward an important family chat. But let’s maybe leave the surprise direct mail for another time, okay? Say in 20 or 30 years?