Burial Options Society in Strathcona County
… and so the story goes. “What brought you on the cemetery tour today?” was the question. This 30 something anthropologist responded with, “this is my first time in a cemetery. My family, are closet people. We have family members’ final remains in several homes; all in closets.”
Summer 2020 Update
This conversation illustrates just one of the hundreds of stories we’ve heard that have informed the education and awareness events hosted by the Burial Options Society of Strathcona (BOSS). From the first Council presentation in 2012, the mission of BOSS has been to create awareness and deliver education about cemetery services. The vision is a Strathcona Municipal Cemetery. We (community board members) have always understood that cemetery development rests with municipal decision makers, as they are informed by constituents. More than 650 residents completed a Cemetery Assessment Survey last fall.
This post is about what has been happening this past year and at the bottom is an update on BOSS activities and our response to CoVid 19.
This past year, Strathcona County undertook a $60,000 Request For Proposal to fund phase one of a municipal cemetery assessment, through broad public engagement. This first stage is complete and delivered to Council. The report reflects that resident first concerns are with the cost of services in the County. There is one big cemetery and it arguably serves the community well. The cost of services here however may drive residents to seek services elsewhere, taking funeral, catering, flower and other death service costs out of our local economy.
BOSS believes affordable municipal cemetery services (user pay) are vital to meet resident needs and to reduce a continued local monopoly. As illustrated below, there is reason for resident concerns about cost. This table reflects 2020 cemetery costs locally. These costs don’t reflect funeral home services, like cremation, memorial service, obituary and others.
The information above is certainly thought provoking. It is the ask of BOSS to municipal decision makers that the process of assessing cemetery needs in Strathcona County receives continued funding in budget decisions this fall.
We're also looking to find a few community champions. We know you're out there... :) What might that look like, you ask? Please send an email... we've got a list. :-)
And then, along comes CoVID-19 and a fragile Alberta economy. Life has changed for most of us. It is projected that 3,500 people will pass away in the next five years, in Strathcona County. The costs to provide final care will likely become a bigger burden for families.
BOSS has recently taken time to look back at where we’ve been and consider what the future holds for our society. The rear-view mirror reflects a sense of mission accomplished – to provide education and awareness events to County residents with regard to cemetery services.
As a nonprofit society, we have relied on events that either pay for themselves, or we apply for grants or in-kind assistance. We have local providers to thank for their support.
The County Clothes-Line Foundation has been a lifeline to this death-related nonprofit. Common Ground Café and HQ understand that conversations of depth are always better served alongside great hospitality. Volunteer Strathcona has provided marketing, graphics and printing assistance. Servus Credit Union has been all about the service, and Strathcona County has provided roughly $20,000 through various grants such as Priority Funds and the Strathcona Community Investment Program.
Over the course of eight years, BOSS has attracted quiet faithful folks to conversations and questions around the reality of our mortality:
two film previews - farmers market events
six cemetery tours - four winter educational sessions
a full-day workshop attended by 50
many presentations to County Council
discussions with CLAC and Active Living Committee
All of this to relay that the Burial Options Society in Strathcona won’t be out and about in our community for at least this next year. Do we know what the next couple of years hold? No, we don’t. There will always be passion for the mission and the vision is really in the hands of our community. And, if you might have interest in "championing," send an email please.
Burial Options Society in Strathcona
Board of Directors Summer 2020
6th Autumn Cemetery Walk + Talk
Saturday, September 21, 2019 9:15 am - 3:30 pm
“Life fails to be perfect, but never fails to be beautiful.
There is something incredibly nostalgic about the annual cascade of autumn leaves.”
The Strathcona Cemetery Tour is an awareness building event, with a little heritage, fun and death chat thrown in.
We will visit three cemeteries and make a stop at the Scotford Hutterite Market Store. This is a family friendly event where questions are encouraged and dark humour is appropriate. It is a timely event as many Strathcona County seniors and their families consider what is available for a “final address” in our community.
Tickets: $15.00 on Eventbrite - search cemetery tour (includes bus ride and lunch)
Further info: 780-910-6432 Departure and return at Trinity Baptist Church parking lot
1 km east of Hwy 21 on Baseline Road
Burial Options Society in Strathcona County
Providing education about the:
environmental, emotional and economic benefits
of a more natural,
less commercial approach to death.
Advocates for development of a community cemetery.
The Burial Options Society in Strathcona County (BOSS) is a non-profit society registered in 2016.
We are a group of community minded folks, with a shared interest:
in the environment,
a last fixed address for County families,
and the green or natural burial movement.
The original concept for BOSS was to start the discussion of different ways to approach end of life.
Our mission is the development of a hybrid (options) community cemetery in Strathcona County.
We provide education about the:
the environmental, emotional, and economic benefits
of a more natural, less commercial,
approach to death and body disposition
Like, who isn't talking about death these days? :-)
BOSS works to:
1. Provide educational events around end of life, death care and burial options.
2. Advocate at the County level for development of a community cemetery.
This is no small undertaking (pun intended)!
We are eager to involve others who are interested. After all, death is not optional.
BOSS board members include the following community volunteers:
Bonnie Hoffmann – Board Chair
Marion Zerr – Board Vice-Chair/Secretary
Judy Swan – Treasurer
Gayle McCarthy - Director
Bryan Tower – Director
Jacqueline Clark - Director
We currently meet once per month, believing that food and hospitality builds relationships.
Our meetings are currently held at HQ Restaurant on Granada Blvd.
The Burial Options Society in Strathcona is grateful to Strathcona County and other community supporters for their contributions as we continue forward in:
volunteer advocacy efforts, and
community education endeavours.
The dollars and "sense" of it all…
Whether it is a family seeking less costly options for final disposition, or a non-profit organization intent on making a change in the community, finances impact many of our end of life decisions.
To build a community cemetery is a solid investment in our social culture
and provides a grief repository for families and our seniors.
The Burial Options Society of Strathcona is pleased to report that Strathcona County Council
has budgeted $60,000.00 in 2019 for a review and report back with regard to
the cemetery needs and availability in our community.
More information to follow here with regard to the review process and how community members
can participate in determining need in our Strathcona County. Please check back.
(yes, disposition is the word we use)
Just as there are varying degrees of “green routine,” the final placement of human remains also follows a continuum of green or natural.
In its purest form, green burial is:
- body burial without the use of chemical embalming fluids
- the containment of the body in a fabric shroud or wooden box (casket)
- burial without the placement of an external liner (concrete)
Alberta statistics report that cremation is the body disposition of choice for more than 70% of deaths.
Is cremation a more environmentally considerate option than green burial? It’s not, but that doesn’t make the process wrong. At life’s end, there are many choices and decisions to be made.
Cremation is thought to be the least costly option. However, decisions will need to be made and action taken on what to “do” with cremated remains. Leaving cremated remains in a closet, laundry room, or on a mantle may help avoid making final decisions but they shouldn't stay there long term. They too require final disposition; scattered, buried, cast to the wind.
Body burial is final with regard to placement.
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