All through history humans have looked for efficient, proper and honorable ways to dispose of their dead and to memorialize them. Burial was and remains the most often used method of disposition. But more and more families, in the last fifty years, have chosen cremation for a variety of reasons. About one in three deaths now ends in cremation in America. As a culture, we are more mobile, less "grounded" than earlier generations and cremation suits this cultural change. A century ago, people were born, lived, and died in the same community. It made sense in such places to bury the dead. Now that is not so much the rule. Our sense of "home" changes many times in a lifetime. So like living, which has become more transient and portable, cremation makes the dead more transient and portable. Cremation may cost less than earth burial -- though the difference is most often in the hundreds, not the thousands of dollars -- because crematory fees are most often less than grave opening charges. Still, when the cost of urns, niches, or cemetery space for the ashes is added, the cost differences may be very little. Too often we mistake cremation as an alternative to a funeral rather than as an alternative to burial. Unlike cultures where cremation has been practiced widely and well, cremation in our culture has too often been seen as a way to get rid of the dead and avoid any bother or expense associated with the death. In some places cremation is highly ritualized, done with ceremony and symbol and has profound meaning for the living. It is seen as "cleansing," "release," or "reuniting with creation." But in western thought, our ideas about fire are often negative -- it is seen as wasteful or punitive -- and so too often it is at odds with our cultural conditioning. But the value of a funeral does not proceed from what we spend or from what we save. It comes from what we do about the fact that someone we love has died. Both burial and cremation can have positive meanings for a family. The question is not so much "what is done" but "by whom and for what reasons." As with all other important decisions, open discussion and careful consideration help to make for good decisions.