For most people, an eternal resting place means a traditional burialplot, perhaps cremation.
But for a growing number of county residents, and people elsewhere, the resting place of choice is an above-ground crypt in one of a number of different types of mausoleums.
The mausoleum, once the burial place for the rich and famous, hasbecome an option for more people because of increased availability and lower prices, said Dan Smith, sales manager for Glen Haven Memorial Park in Glen Burnie.
Although private mausoleums can cost $25,000 to $500,000 and more, a newer type of mausoleum -- the garden style-- offers crypts that are well within most burial budgets.
"Some people can't afford to go above ground, that's true. But it's not as expensive as people think," said Smith. "It's become well within the reach of ordinary people."
Barney Thorne, sales manager of Cedar Hill Cemetery and Mausoleum in Brooklyn Park, said his cemetery has a mausoleum holding 1,000 crypts and plans to add more.
"Public demand for above ground, instead of below ground, has continued to increase," he said. On average, he said, above-ground entombment costs about $800 to $1,000 more than in-ground burial at Glen Haven, a 76-acre memorial park on Ritchie Highway that opened in 1939.
And at some local cemeteries, the lowest-priced crypts can cost less than traditional in-ground burials once all the latter's fees and services are added into the price.
To keep up with the growing popularity of above-ground entombment, several cemeteries are building new mausoleums with as many as 500 to 1,000 crypts.
Glen Haven, for example, is finishing construction of a three-building mausoleum complex that includes 540 crypts. The final section, which includes 260 crypts, is about 20 percent sold. Prices range from about $2,400 to $3,600 for a crypt.
At Cedar Hill, plans have been made to build a new 880-crypt mausoleum and chapel across from the completed 1,000-crypt mausoleum, which is now 70 percent sold.
Crypts at Cedar Hill run about $3,200 to $10,000, he said, but spaces in the new building are currently being sold at a "pre-construction discount."
And at Meadowridge Memorial Park in Dorsey, owners are constructing a 500-crypt mausoleum, the largest addition to the park since it opened in 1935. Crypts in the new mausoleum will run $2,000 to $12,000.
The cost of a crypt is generally based on where it is located within the mausoleum, which direction the memorial plaque faces and the height of the crypt from the floor.
Some mausoleums have five or more levels of crypts. Spaces on the top levels are least expensive because visitors cannot touch the memorial plaques or leave flowers.
Many spaces on the lowerlevels have containers attached so visitors can leave flowers.
Most of the new mausoleums also include "ceremonial niches," spaces where the cremated remains of individuals can be stored.
"We considerourselves like a full-service bank," said Richard King, Glen Haven'sowner.
"We want to offer everything -- something for everyone."
King said there are a number of reasons why a person would choose above-ground entombment over the more traditional in-ground plot.
Most people choose crypts for religious reasons or because other family members have been buried in them.
"Our Lord, Jesus Christ, was entombed in a crypt," said Smith, explaining why many Christians choose mausoleums.
Other people many have had a bad experience with thedeath of a family member, he said, preferring not to be "lowered into the ground" themselves.
Thorne said many people think burial in a mausoleum is more dignified than burial below ground.
"My wife and I have above-ground entombment that we purchased before I even gotinto this business 10 years ago," he said. "There's more dignity to above ground. And every religious faith recognizes above-ground entombment."
Hillcrest Memorial Gardens and Chapel Mausoleum in Annapolis, established in 1952, completed a 720-crypt mausoleum in 1986 thatis now about 70 percent sold.
Jack Maynard, manager and part-owner, said he and his wife purchased crypts for themselves.
"My wife wanted above ground so we have above ground," he said, adding that hedoes not really have a preference.
Cemetery managers said the best way to decide on above- or below-ground sites, burial or cremation,headstone or plaque, is to visit several cemeteries well in advance of old age or illness to look at various options.
Although many people don't like to think about their final resting places in advance,it's the type of decision, like making a will, that is harder when left to family members after a death.
"People plan better beforehand," said Smith.
"Most of our business is done ahead of time."
Managers said they have customers from their early 20s to "as old as they can get."
Most younger customers come in after the death of a family member. The bulk of the customers are in their 40s and 50s, several managers said.
King said he has had several customers come in recently to trade burial plots for crypts after hearing about the new garden-style options. Others have turned in less-expensive crypts for more expensive ones. Customers can apply the cost of one site to a more expensive one if they choose.
"It's like they're trading incars," he said.