Holy smoke! Cost of dying is going up in energy crisis too

The manager of a crematorium said energy bills for its ovens had quadrupled over the past year, reveals Trevor Laffan
Holy smoke! Cost of dying is going up in energy crisis too

BURNING ISSUE: The energy crisis makes it more expensive to be cremated

THERE was a time, and it’s not that long ago either, when you couldn’t go on a holiday without the help of a travel agent.

It would have been unthinkable to attempt organising a trip on your own. It was too complicated and too risky, so it was best left to the professionals.

The first step was to find a reputable travel agent. Then get their brochure and see what deals were available, and once you had decided on your destination, they would present you with an appropriate package.

They sorted your flights, accommodation, and transfers to and from the airport, and they usually had a representative on site in your chosen location as well, just in case anything went wrong.

All you had to do was go to the bank for your travellers’ cheques and you were ready for the road. Or sky, as the case may be.

Foreign travel was very mysterious in those days, but not anymore. Now most of us can book a hotel room or an apartment online, find suitable flights, check in online, download the boarding passes to our phones and that’s it, done and dusted. All sorted before getting up for breakfast.

Banking was another mystery back in the day. I can remember in Cobh as a young lad we had the Munster and Leinster Bank and later the Cork Savings Bank. Those were the days when you could go into a local bank and deal with a real human, but they were intimidating places, full of important people doing stuff that ordinary mortals couldn’t possibly understand.

It might seem strange to younger readers to learn that, in those days, banks actually encouraged customers to come through the doors. That ended when online banking got rid of the important people. There was no longer a need for tellers to pass money over the counter when a machine could do the same thing out on the street.

Like it or not, the internet has changed many aspects of our daily life. Many businesses don’t want to meet real-life customers anymore. They’re too time-consuming. They would prefer to keep us at a distance and deal with us online, and that got me thinking about where this is going to end.

You can pretty much arrange everything over the internet now, so what’s next?

Could we ever see the day when it would be possible to organise a funeral online, for instance? I did some checking, and guess what? That time has already arrived.

Funeralsonline.ie is advertised as a service that offers a completely new approach to funeral arranging in Ireland. They say they can provide you with a quality, cost-effective funeral, tailor-made to your requirements and carried out at your chosen location.

Their website guides you through a process that allows you to create the kind of service you would like. Once you have made your choices, you will be invited to select a username and password, and you can save your arrangements and file them away for future reference.

So, you plan your funeral on the website, save your choices, and notify your solicitor or executor, and FuneralsOnline.ie will keep a record of your arrangements indefinitely, or until you require the service.

It seems straightforward enough, but nothing in life, or death, is simple and end of life issues are no different.

Traditional burials in cemeteries and graveyards have been overtaken by cremations and that’s getting expensive. According to The Sunday Times, rising energy bills have created cost-of-dying crisis for Belgian crematoria.

The manager of a crematorium in Liège said energy bills for its ovens had quadrupled over the past year from €9,000 in 2021 to €36,000 in early 2022. The worldwide rises in energy costs since then have surely impacted funeral and cremation services further, and Belgium faces a crisis.

There is, however, a more energy- friendly alternative system that seems to be growing in popularity, called aguamation or resomation.

Funeral directors say it offers a more environmentally friendly option for burials. The process breaks down the body using a solution of hot water and alkaline chemicals in a large chamber where temperatures reach 160C.

Scotland looks set to become the first UK nation to approve ‘water cremations’. It’s already available in a number of American and Canadian states, as well as in parts of Australia, Mexico, South Africa and the Netherlands, and the Scottish government has confirmed it is considering new regulations that would allow for the introduction of resomations.

The Dutch have a more immediate problem though. The Times UK reported previously that an increase in the size and weight of Dutch people is forcing the country’s funeral industry to introduce bigger coffins, more pallbearers, wider crematoria ovens and longer cremation times.

It appears overweight or obese people take 15 minutes longer to cremate.

A study by the NRC Handelsblad newspaper found that the Dutch funeral is changing as people in the Netherlands get fatter.

Official health statistics show that half of Dutch people are overweight, with 35% moderately so and about 15% classed as obese.

In recent years, most coffin makers have increased the size of caskets to, as one manufacturer put it, match “the average stature of the contemporary Dutchman”.

Van Wijk funeral caskets, in the undertaking business since 1925, have added an inch to the width of their coffins “due to increasing demand”.

The bigger coffins and larger corpses are increasing the weight, with implications for funeral corteges, with the number of pallbearers rising from the traditional six to eight more frequently.

That’s one problem that can’t be solved online. To prepare for burial, we need to get out and exercise.

So, it would seem we need to be fit to live and fit to die. Time for the gym.

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