Tennessee used to be a state where both cultural tradition and evangelical beliefs about the body's importance meant Grandma went into the ground instead of being sprinkled on her favorite scenic spot.
But the latest report from the Cremation Association of North America placed Tennessee fifth in the United States for its increase in the percentage of deaths handled with cremation. The actual number of cremations doubled from 9,217 in 2007 to 18,036 in 2011.
Nationally, about 44 percent of bodies are cremated.
Locals who deal with end-of-life issues attribute the Tennessee trend to three main factors:
• Families are more mobile, so they may fear moving away from a permanent grave.
• The state has seen steady population growth, meaning thousands of people with different beliefs are moving here.
• The recession prompted families to accept funerals they could afford over ones they would prefer.
"People who have the money aren't seeing the value; people who don't have it are financially challenged," said Mary Waddell, manager of Nashville Funeral & Cremation Service.
Her business provides the most basic cremation service for $770. A full church funeral goes for $3,725, and that doesn't count what families spend at the cemetery.
Churches of Christ-affiliated Lipscomb University recently asked its Bible professors to come up with guidance for pastors whose congregation members had to decide between burial and cremation. Their answer? Whatever the family wants.
"Some people say burning a body is an abomination. It's not taking the body seriously," said Scott Sager, Lipscomb's vice president for church services. "But some of the great Christian martyrs who we all look up to were burned at the stake. So we really don't have a definitive position inside Christianity on what should be done with the body.
"What's important is thinking about what glorifies God, what honors the departed and what allows the family to move into a future that allows them to continue to flourish."