Choosing Cremation is an excellent and ever more popular option.
What You Need to Know
Cremation is the disposition of a body through the use of intense heat – fire. It usually takes from two to four hours for the body to be completely decomposed into a fine, sand-like consistency. These ‘ashes’ are typically spread in some meaningful place or placed in an urn for keeping or burying.
Cremation Does Not Mean You Can’t Have a Funeral ServiceWhile it certainly is often the case that cremation means there is no funeral (what funeral homes call ‘immediate disposition’) the is not always the case. In fact, more and more frequently, there is a formal service of memorial held either before or after the cremation. Often families want to have a service but the crematoria won’t have completed their job by the time a memorial service has been planed for. In these cases, a photo is typically displayed in place of a casket or urn. Cremation is, by no means, a substitute for a funeral or a memorial service or a celebration of life.
The Pros of Cremation
The Downside – there always is at least one
The Cost of Cremation
The Cremation Research Council says that, currently, the average cost of cremation is $1,100.
Check with the funeral director to find out what all is included in cremation fees. That $1100 usually doesn’t include any type of funeral or memorial service… only the cremation.
Be aware that there are some “fly-by-night” cremation operations out there. Be sure you are using a reputable cremation service.
Choosing a Cremation ProviderMost funeral homes (even ones that offer cremation services) do not actually own their own crematoriums. They send the bodies out for the service.
Begin your search for a cremation service provider by:
All documents you request should be easily available. Transparency is of utmost importance. If you are not permitted to see a full price list; operating license; certificate of insurance; policy and procedures manual, that is a red flag. Find another provider.
Regardless of price, the most important thing is that you want a cremation provider that will treat the body of your loved one with utmost dignity and will act in a professional and compassionate manner throughout.
With Cremation, Do We Need a Casket?
If cremation is after a period of viewing or after a traditional funeral or memorial service, yes. However, usually such caskets are of light weight, disposable material so the cost is reasonable. Some funeral homes will even ‘rent’ you a traditional casket (this will often depend on state and local laws regulating the reuse of a casket).
A rental casket is a casket that looks like any other casket, but has a removable interior, which is a simple wooden box, making it reusable. The body is fully contained within the interior box, which is easily removed after the funeral. The body is then cremated in this box. Since the deceased never came into contact with the outer casing of the casket, the funeral home can re-use the casket by inserting a new removable interior (again, according to state and local rules).
If cremation happens before the funeral, the family will still have to purchase a consumable casket. The law requires that a body be enclosed in a container during the cremation process to protect the health and safety of the crematorium workers.
Prices and quality of caskets starts at the bottom with a no-frills cardboard box (also referred to as an “alternative container”), and goes all the way up to premium caskets that are also used in traditional burials. Some crematoriums will include the alternative container in their standard fee. Since it will all be consumed anyway, we recommend the ‘alternative container.’
Even if you choose to use a more traditional casket, most crematoriums will only accept caskets that are fully combustible, with no metal parts. Solid wood caskets work best, as are cloth-covered wood caskets and wood veneer caskets. Most “green” caskets are also ideal. Whatever is ‘fully combustible’ will work.
Dealing with the Ashes
After the cremation, the family is given the ‘cremains’ (the person’s cremated remains). The cremains are commonly referred to as “ashes”.
When people who choose cremation, nearly half request that their families scatter their ashes after they have passed. This is often done in rivers, ponds, golf courses, gardens, flower beds, at a lake or sea, or a location that is personally significant to the deceased and his or her family. However, it is important to inquire if your local laws permit the scattering of ashes.
Burying cremains in an more traditional option. The urn can be buried in a cemetery plot or an urn garden or in the back yard.
Burial within the cemetery is usually marked with a grave marker, making the site a permanent memorial. Some family members may find solace in being able to visit and care for the burial site.
A columbarium is an above-ground building that houses cremation urns. Inside the building, the walls have “niches” (or a small opening in the wall) that can hold a single cremation urn. Once the urn containing the cremains has been interred in the columbarium, a bronze plaque is placed on the outside of the niche. The plaque is a permanent record of who is inside the niche.
As with burial, some families find it comforting to be able to visit the place where their loved one has been laid to rest.
Some people prefer to keep the ashes of their loved one at home, either in an urn on display, or in a simple urn kept in a private place within the house, or buried in the garden.
A memorial tree is a beautiful tribute to someone’s life and legacy. It is also a gift to future generations. In addition, symbolizes the circle of life, and our return to nature after our death.
When memorial trees are planted on a family’s private property, the ashes can be sprinkled around the base of the tree or buried under the tree.
Some also install a simple bronze plague at the base of the tree that displays their loved one’s name, date of birth and date of death, along with a personal message or quote.
Steve Schafer is the founder of TheEulogyWriters and is probably the most prolific eulogy writer (and, no doubt, the best) anywhere. He lives in Michigan and has been writing eulogies for well over thirty years. The articles in this blog are designed to help people through the process of losing loved ones.