Funerals help us to do two important things – say farewell to the person who has died and to carry out the disposal of their physical remains.
Traditionally we've combined these two elements, but Direct Cremation separates the practical aspects of the cremation from any gathering to say goodbye, and for some families this offers a new level of freedom that suits them perfectly.
You may be surprised to learn that Direct Cremation has always been a valid, legal option. All that the law requires is for each cremation to take place at a licensed facility. There has never been any obligation to use a hearse, funeral director, minister or to have a ceremony.
So why haven't you heard about Direct Cremation before now?
The biggest single factor is probably our society's attitude towards death. We don't want to talk about the subject, which leaves most families asking the funeral director to guide them, and, quite naturally, the professionals will recommend a style of service that they can deliver with confidence.
The funeral customs most of us observe today are more than 100 years old, in fact the most radical innovations in the last century have been the introduction of the motor hearse and the rise of civil celebrants who now lead more funeral services than ordained ministers. But the "old ways" are increasingly out of step with today's families' needs, attitudes and beliefs.
In today's busy world those we love are more scattered and have more complicated lives, raising questions such as: Do you have enough time to let everyone know? Can key people change their work, study or travel plans? Can you negotiate with your ex to make sure the grandchildren are there to say goodbye?
Little wonder that bringing everyone together in just 7-10 days for a traditional ceremony can be very challenging. Even when you've arranged a funeral before this responsibility can feel overwhelming.
The simple separation of the cremation from the Celebration of Life or Memorial reclaims precious time to consider what made your loved one special, to express their life and personality and find somewhere comfortable to gather all the people that matter – a much more family-friendly approach that even the youngest members of the family can share.
This is exactly why David Bowie chose Direct Cremation for himself.
Bowie, like the vast majority of folk choosing this style of exit, could easily afford a splendid send-off, but it was more important to find the right time and place; so, three months after the simple, unattended cremation his friends and family assembled on the island of Bali to remember a remarkable LIFE rather than mourn his death.
Many people will still opt for the comfort of familiar traditions but the number making a conscious choice to do something else is growing rapidly. Unfortunately, many funeral businesses will only see Direct Cremation as a threat, however a few will embrace it as a long overdue response to the needs of today's families.
Whether you like the idea of Direct Cremation, or whether you hate it, even if it remains a niche option this concept signals the beginning of a funeral revolution, inspiring important conversations about "What should a funeral look like? What kind of send-off do people want for themselves or a loved one? How much everything should cost? What is good value for money…?"
This cannot fail to improve things for consumers, but what about the profession?
You could compare Direct Cremation to a stone thrown into the previously tranquil Funeral Industry pond…. only time will tell whether traditional funeral directors will experience a refreshing ripple or world-changing tsunami.