How is a cremation service different from a traditional funeral service?
It isn’t. At least it doesn’t have to be different. The extent and the content of a cremation service is entirely subject to the wishes of the family. They may choose as much formality or as little as they feel the want to have and they also have more options when cremation is chosen. Quite often a memorial service is held after cremation has occurred or perhaps the family will want to gather at a convenient time for the final committal of the cremated remains.
Is a casket required?
Most crematories associated with CANA require that the body at least be enclosed and in an acceptably rigid container. This container or casket must be strong enough to assure the protection of the health and safety of the operator. It should provide a proper covering for the body and meet reasonable standards of respect and dignity. Some crematories will accept metal caskets but most require that the casket or container be fashioned of a combustible material. The body is cremated in the same enclosure in which it arrives at the crematory.
How is cremation accomplished?
The enclosed body is placed in the cremation chamber where through heat and evaporation the body is reduced to its basic elements, which are referred to as cremated remains. It may surprise many to learn that ashes are not the final result since cremated remains have neither the appearance nor the chemical properties of the ashes ~ they are in fact, bone fragments. After preparation, these elements are either placed in a permanent urn or in a temporary container that is suitable for transport.Depending upon the size of the body, there are normally three to nine pounds of fragments resulting. Some crematories process the cremated remains, thereby reducing the space they require. Others do not alter their condition after they are removed from the chamber.
Isn’t cremation an end in itself?
Some people may regard it as such, but most families feel that the cremated remains of someone they love should be afforded a resting place that can be identified by the name and dates. This is memorialization. Most families find that a memorial, regardless of its size, serves a basic human need to remember and to be remembered.
What choices of memorialization are available?
A final resting place for cremated remains can be provided by various means. The family may choose from a full selection of urns for permanent containment of the cremated remains. The urns may be placed in a columbarium, which is a building or structure where single niche space or family units may be selected. Niches are recessed compartments enclosed by either glass protecting the engraved urn or ornamental fronts upon which the name and dates are featured. Of course, family lots may be used and cemeteries often permit the interment of more than one person in an adult space if cremation has occurred. In many cemeteries there are also specially designed areas for this purpose, which are called urn gardens.
What about scattering cremated remains?
This may be legally done in most areas, but CANA members believe that in consideration of the descendants of the departed that some form of memorialization should be provided. Furthermore, there are reasons for not scattering, because it is for many a very traumatic experience. It can be soul shaking to spill out all that is mortal of someone you have known and loved. One should realize how much is being asked of the person who is to do the scattering. Some crematories provide scattering gardens within their dedicated property, often with the option of personal memorials. The use of dedicated property assures the site chosen will not be developed for other use at some future time.
How does the cost of cremation compare with burial or entombment?
The basic charge for just cremation is somewhat less than traditional burial. However, with so many items of service available to the family both in the funeral service before and in the mode of disposition after, it’s not possible to make an accurate comparison. Again, the family has the option to select as much or as little as they choose and with cremation they have more options.
Is a funeral director necessary?
Some governmental jurisdictions require a licensed person to transport a body and to obtain the necessary permits. Funeral directors are among those so licensed and are the only ones permitted to do so in some jurisdictions. Normally, the funeral director performs the same professional functions regarding cremations as in any other service. In some areas funeral directors operate crematories in conjunction with their funeral homes and are CANA members.
Is embalming necessary?
No, but the factors of time, health and possible legal regulations and religious beliefs might make embalming prior to cremation either appropriate or necessary. As a point of information, heart pacemakers or similar devices should be removed, because they may become dangerous when subjected to the extreme heat of the cremation chamber.
Are more people choosing cremation today?
Yes. The subject should certainly be resolved among family members since that determination will have to be made at the time of death. The family should visit the crematory to learn what is offered in the way of services and memorial property. The family should consult together ahead of time to decide what is best for all. Arrangements for memorialization also should be made at this time. This way one of life’s most difficult decisions need not be made alone at a time of grief and confusion.
Before Cremation Takes Place
Any scheduled ceremonies, rites of passage or viewings have been completed.
All authorization forms and permits must be completed and signed.
The funeral director or cremation provider should be made aware if the decedent has a pacemaker, prosthesis or any other mechanical or radioactive devices or implants as they may have to be removed prior to cremation. If such devices or implants should have been removed and were not, then the person(s) authorizing the cremation will be responsible for any damages caused to the crematory or crematory personnel by such devices or implants. The funeral director or cremation provider should also be made aware if the decedent was recently treated with any radioactive medication.
All personal possessions or valuable materials, such as jewelry or dental gold, if so desired, should be removed by you or your designated agent prior to the time the decedent is transported to the crematory. Due to the nature of the cremation process, any materials not removed from the casket/container prior to cremation will be destroyed, or if not destroyed, will be disposed of by the crematory in a non-recoverable manner in accordance with applicable laws.
Most crematories require the body be cremated in a combustible leakproof, rigid covered container, if a casket is not being used.
Noncumbustible materials on caskets, such as decorative handles or rails, latches, etc., which could cause damage to the cremation equipment, may be removed prior to the cremation disposed of by the crematory in a non-recoverable manner. Some states/provinces and some crematories do not allow metal caskets to be used in cremation. If a metal casket is used, the remnants of the metal casket shell, following the cremation, will be disposed of by the crematory in a non-recoverable manner.
Depending on state/provincial and local laws, there may be a waiting period of up to 48 hours from the time of death before human remains may be cremated.
The crematory must be notified if anyone wishes to witness the casket/container being placed in the cremation chamber. Not all crematories offer this service. If witnessing is offered, the crematory may require a waiver or old-harmless agreement to be signed to protect it from any liability.
The crematory should be provided with an urn in which the cremated remains will be placed. If no urn is provided or the urn is not large enough to hold all the remains, the crematory will place the remains or any excess in a container made of plastic, light metal, cardboard, unfinished wood, or other suitable material to hold the remains until an urn is acquired or the cremated remains are scattered. The Cremation: Processing of the Remains
All cremations are performed individually. Exceptions can be made only in the case of close relatives, and then only with the prior written instructions of the authorizing agent(s) and only if state/provincial or local laws allows this.
The cremation process begins with the placement of the casket/container in the cremation chamber where it is subjected to intense heat and flame reaching temperatures between 1400 and 1800 degrees Fahrenheit. All substances are consumer except bone fragments (calcium compounds) and any non-combustible materials, such as jewelry, dental gold, prosthesis, latches, hinges, etc., that were not removed prior to cremation as the temperature is not sufficient to consume them.
During the cremation process it may be necessary to open the cremation chamber and reposition the deceased in order to facilitate complete and thorough cremation.
The time for cremation to be completed varies with the size and weight of each human remains but usually takes between 1.5 to 3 hours.
Following a cooling down period, the cremated remains are then swept or raked from the cremation chamber. Every effort is made to remove all human remains. However, a small residue may remain in the cremation chamber, resulting in incidental commingling with other cremated remains.
After the cremated remains are removed from the cremation chamber, all non-combustible materials that have not been removed prior to cremation, will be separated and removed from the bone fragments by visible or magnetic selection and will be disposed of by the crematory in a non-recoverable manner.
Cremated remains, depending on the bone structure of the decedent, will weigh between 4 to 8 pounds, and are usually white in color, but can be other colors due to temperature variations and other factors.
The crematory should be provided with an urn in which the cremated remains will be placed. If no urn is provided or the urn is not large enough to hold all the remains, the crematory will place the remains or any excess in a container made of plastic, light metal, cardboard, unfinished wood, or other suitable material to hold the remains until an urn is acquired or the cremated remains are scattered. After The Cremation Has Been Completed
The urn or the container containing the cremated remains will be returned to you or the individual, cemetery or funeral home you have designated on the cremation authorization form.
If you and/or other family members have not already decided on the final resting place for the cremated remains, you may wish to consult the professional who assisted you on the many options available. These options include:
placement of the urn containing the cremated remains in an indoor or outdoor mausoleum or columbarium
interment of the urn containing the cremated remains in a family burial plot or in a special urn garden that many cemeteries provide for cremated remains;
scattering of the cremated remains in a cemetery garden especially created and dedicated for this purpose, or scattering the remains at sea or on land in accordance with state/provincial or local laws.
(If scattering is done, you may wish to choose a site for a permanent memorial, such as placing the name of the deceased in a Book of Remembrance or on a plaque for a special location, or planting a tree in remembrance. Any of these will provide a place of pilgrimage for those who want to remember and celebrate the life of the loved one.)
the urn may, of course, be taken to the home of a loved one, but plans should be made for an eventual permanent resting place.
It is recommended that when you are arranging for a cremation, it be done prior to immediate need. This gives you the benefit of making arrangements without the pressure of time.
The first thing you need to do is to put your wishes in writing. In many states, you cannot authorize your own cremation and therefore the next of kin(s) must be in agreement if a cremation is to take place. You can check with a cremation provider as to whether your state allows self-authorization.
When choosing a cremation provider, here are some questions to ask:
Are they a member of the Cremation Association of North America? If not, do they adhere to a code of cremation ethics?
Do they perform their own cremations? If so, can you tour the cremation facility? If not, who does the cremations for them and where are they located?
Do they require the body be identified prior to cremation?
Can the cremation be witnessed by a family member or designated individual?
What is the average time between receiving the deceased and the completion of the cremation?
Do they have refrigeration facilities to hold the body prior to cremation?
What is the procedure to track the body through the cremation process and verify the identity of the cremated remains following cremation?
How are the cremated remains returned if an urn is not provided prior to cremation? What is the policy regarding holding of the cremated remains after the cremation is completed?
What is their policy in regards to disposing prosthetics, artificial hips, knees, etc.?
Will they give you references of other families who have used their services?
Have their crematory operators been certified by a recognized organization, such as CANA, in the proper use of the cremation equipment and care of the body and cremated human remains?