Branch & Pyre offers simple, online cremation service
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This article was published 02/11/2022 (210 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The practice of cremation dates back thousands of years. Parts of the world, such as India and Nepal, still cremate the dead on traditional, open-air funeral pyres. While Canada has its own cremation methodology, some in the industry are finding ways to make the practice easier to navigate for families of the deceased.
This year, River Heights resident Lee Barringer founded Branch & Pyre, a modern, direct cremation company whose name is a nod to the ritual’s roots.
“Winnipeg has become a very funeral-heavy city over the years, but what’s happened is, years ago, we had people start what they believe is a low-cost alternative,” Barringer said, “but there’s not one person who specializes in doing 100 per cent simple, direct cremation like we do — or 100 per cent online.”
Families can arrange a cremation directly through Branch & Pyre’s website. To start, the company has a 24-hour helpline, which connects clients to a Manitoba-based, licensed funeral director.
“You’re not going to get an answering service that pages somebody,” said Barringer’s wife, Rachel Barringer, 49, who manages Branch & Pyre’s media.
From there, the client will fill out three online forms — a contract, a registration of death and a cremation authorization.
“We’re finding it takes people about 15 minutes … It’s very simple. It takes away a lot of emotional over-spending for the family, too,” Lee Barringer said. “Then they’re free to arrange something meaningful in their own way.”
The individuals are cremated at a family-owned facility within Winnipeg. Branch & Pyre hand-deliver the ashes in a simple cardboard box, though they will supply urns upon request. (Barringer will personally transfer ashes into the urn.)
The company serves clients in the greater Winnipeg area and in communities within a 25-kilometre radius.
Barringer entered the industry in the 1980s while studying at the Western School of Funeral Service — an institution that trains students across Canada. After a two-year apprenticeship, he became a licensed funeral director and embalmer and began a decades-long career.
“As time has gone by and I’ve met more and more people, I’m realizing they want a much simpler option — to try and take control back of the celebration of life and the creative part of it. That’s why Branch & Pyre was born,” Barringer said.
Traditionally, families will call a bricks-and-mortar funeral home when a loved one dies. But Barringer said earth burials aren’t as common as they once were.
When Barringer started out 33 years ago, about 60 per cent of families would have earth burials and 40 per cent would opt for cremation. Now, roughly 70 per cent of families select cremation services.
“It’s been a complete reversal,” Barringer said. “And now people want to celebrate life in a more personal way, without the body present.”
One caveat of traditional cremation, Barringer says, is that the service comes with extras, such as in-person meetings and elaborate urns, that can contribute to overhead costs and added stress.
“If it’s a simple cremation without a funeral beforehand, which is what most people are doing, they’re going to do a memorial service or something without the body present afterward, then they don’t need to go to a traditional funeral home,” Barringer said.
Branch & Pyre helps families draft obituaries of their loved ones and also connects them with the Winnipeg Free Press Passages section. It also hosts free notices on its website, www.branchandpyre.com
“We have one option, one price, and that’s our promise to people when they contact us,” Barringer said.
Katlyn Streilein was a reporter/photographer for the Free Press Community Review.