Cremation is an alternative to the burial process and it is chosen by many people because of religious beliefs, the desire to preserve the environment or as a special request of the deceased. Cremation is also a less expensive option in comparison to a burial. The remains are placed in a container that is combustible and then inserted into a special furnace called a cremation chamber or a crematory. Through intense heat, the body is reduced to bone fragments that are then crushed and pulverized to resemble course sand. The cremated remains of an average adult body will weigh between seven and eight pounds. Cremation is not an alternative to a funeral, but rather an alternative to burial or other forms of disposition.
Cremated remains can be scattered or buried, or they may be kept with the family in a decorative urn. There are many new and different ways to dispose of ashes today. Cremated remains can be placed in an artificial coral reef in the ocean, they can be launched into space or sent up in helium balloons, or they can even be spun into glass pieces of art or diamonds.
Some religions welcome cremation while others forbid it. The Catholic Church had banned cremation up until 1963, and burial remains the preferred form of disposition today. In other Christian denominations cremation was historically discouraged but today it is more widely accepted. In Eastern religions such as Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism and Buddhism cremation is mandated, while in Islam it is strictly forbidden. Orthodox Jews also forbid cremation; other sects of Judaism support cremation, but burial remains the preferred option.
What is cremation?
Cremation is the process of reducing the human body to bone fragments using high heat and flame. Cremation is not the final disposition of the remains, nor is it a type of funeral service.
Is a casket needed for cremation?
No, a casket is not required. Most states require an alternative container constructed of wood or cardboard; however, in some states no container is required.
Is embalming required prior to cremation?
No. In fact it is against the law for a funeral home to tell you otherwise.
Can the body be viewed without embalming?
Yes, most crematories allow immediate family members to briefly view the deceased prior to cremation.
Can the family witness the cremation?
Yes they can; some cremation providers will allow family members to be present when the body is placed in the cremation chamber. Some religious groups even include this as part of their funeral custom.
Can an urn be brought into church?
Nearly all Protestant churches allow for the urn to be present during the memorial service. Most Catholic churches also allow the remains to be present during the Memorial Mass. It is encouraged for cremated remains to be a part of a funeral as it provides a focal point for the service.
What can be done with the cremated remains?
While laws vary state by state, in general remains can be buried in a cemetery lot or a cremation garden, interred in a columbarium, kept at home or scattered.
How can I be sure I receive the correct remains?
All reputable cremation providers have developed rigorous sets of operating policies and procedures in order to maximize the level of service and minimize the potential for human error. Since it is illegal to perform more than one cremation at a time, and the vast majority of crematories can only cremate one body at a time, it is next to impossible to receive the incorrect remains.
How long does the actual cremation take?
It depends on the weight of the individual. For an average sized adult, cremation can take two to three hours at a normal operating temperature of between 1,000 and 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
What do the cremated remains look like?
Cremated remains resemble coarse sand and are whitish to light grey in color. The remains of an average sized adult usually weigh between seven and eight pounds.
Are all the cremated remains returned?
With the exception of minute and microscopic particles, which are impossible to remove from the cremation chamber and processing machine, all of the cremated remains are given back to the family.
Do I need an urn?
An urn is not required by law. However, an urn may be desired if there is to be a memorial service or if the remains are to be interred in a cemetery. If an urn is not purchased or provided by the family, the cremated remains will be returned in a temporary plastic container.