Another Ferry Ride Before The Burial
One thing people rarely, if ever, think about is what happens when the one and only funeral home on any given island (this one happens to be located 30 miles out to sea), closes its doors and terminates its service to the island community forever. Several newspapers in December 2013 heralded the story of what would become of those who happened to die while they are either visiting, vacationing, or are permanent residents of Nantucket Island- also known as the "Grey Lady".
Nantucket's only funeral home, The Lewis Funeral Home, tucked away on Union Street while being operated by the same family for five generations, has shut it's doors.
Why? The sixth generation has no interest in running the 137 year old business; the islanders are opting for the more cost effective choice of cremation vs. burial; and, of course, the rising real estate prices would reward the owners of the old weathered funeral home far exceeding the profits from continuing to run the family business.
42% of people are opting for cremations in Massachusetts these days. Convienence is one reason and certainly paying less than a third of the cost of a full-service funeral explains the higher percentage for cremations.
So now what?
What will happen if you die while you are "on island'?
For one, your remains will take one last ferry ride to Cape Cod after a short ride to the Steamship Authority in a van ("hearse") owned by a Cape Cod Funeral home which is ready and waiting parked at the Nantucket Police Station. Your body will be loaded along with the luggage and stowed for the two hour ferry ride to the mainland in Hyannis. There you will be transported to the mainland funeral home. The Nantucket Cottage hospital has conveniently purchased a freezer- in case the ferries are cancelled due to stormy weather, or operating glitches, or perhaps even in case of multiple deaths.
Of course, if you want to have your funeral service and be buried in one of the historic cemeteries on Nantucket, you will need to pay more for a special round ticket to and from the Cape.
There are approximately 10,000 year round residents on the Island. Imagine the conversations that the Nantucketers are having at the dinner table after the decision to close The Lewis Funeral Home hit the news. Many will opt to be buried in their hometown...but it will take a few more steps and quite a few more logistical details to get those wishes accomplished. And think about the swelling population in the summertime...along with the possible increase in deaths due to the sheer volume of people visiting!
To those interested in the history of the patrons of The Lewis Funeral Home, the ledgers are currently stored at the Nantucket Historical Association. These records include data regarding the deceased from 1894 to 2006- a historical treasure trove.
Each and every island has it's own story about it's funeral homes, burials, and the history of the inhabitants of the cemeteries.
When you are on an island and you happen to pass by an old cemetery while investigating the terrain, ponder what would happen if there was no longer any funeral home serving that island.
It will be interesting to read about the future ramifications of this closure. I can't imagine it will be just like any other ferry ride...