We Know: All About Cremation

What is cremation?

Cremation is the process of burning of a body down to its ashes using intense heat. It is becoming an increasingly popular alternative to traditional burial arrangements in Western Europe and the United States.

What are the advantages of using cremation?

Because of the rising costs of burial services and the premium value of land, the frequency of cremation is rapidly increasing. The advantages include:

  • Affordability - it is much cheaper to have the deceased cremated than it is to hold a traditional burial service.
  • Environmental concerns
  • Space - storing remains takes less space than storing a body.
  • No embalming is required.

How does cremation work?

Cremation is completed at a crematorium. Relatives contact the funeral home or mortuary to make arrangements for the services. The funeral homes or mortuaries do not have crematory facilities on site and subcontract the work out to a reputable third-party vendor. Relatives may also contact a cremation society. Cremation societies maintain their own cremation facility on the premises.

Some states mandate a waiting period of at least 24 to 48 hours before the actual cremation takes place. After the waiting period passes, the body is taken to the crematorium and placed in a coffin or container with any pacemakers, prosthetics, or mechanical or radioactive devices removed so as not to damage the cremation chamber. The coffin or container is placed into the cremation chamber. Intense heat at 1500 to 2100 degrees Fahrenheit vaporizes the body until it is reduced to ashes. The process usually takes between one to four hours, depending on the size of the body. Bones that have not burned are crushed into ashes. The ashes are cooled from one to two hours before they are given in a sealed container to a relative. The remains generally weigh between three to nine pounds, depending on the size of the deceased.

What happens to the remains?

The ashes, or remains, may be buried in a cemetery or special location (with the appropriate permissions), placed in the columbarium or vault, handled commercially for an additional fee, or scattered in a location of the deceased's or relative's choosing. The remains have been ground into coarse sand-like particles that are environmentally safe for scattering.

Are funeral or memorial services possible with cremation?

Family members may hold a funeral or memorial service before or after the cremation. If a viewing is desired before cremation, family members can rent caskets from the funeral home for this purpose. On the other hand, a memorial service may be held after a cremation, with or without the remains. The remains stored in an urn are placed in a designated viewing area for the service.

What costs are associated with cremation?

Using an undertaker to secure permits, death certificates, or other services, can run upwards of over $1000. Families who own the bodies and make their own arrangements incur costs that run between $100 and $300. The urns which are used to store the remains may require additional costs, as will any burial plots or storage in the columbarium.

How do religions view cremation?

Cremation has been accepted by most Western societies as an alternative to traditional burials. In places such as England and Japan, where land is scarce, cremation rates of 90% are not uncommon. The Catholic religion condones cremation as long as it does not go against Church teachings. There are some religions that forbid the use of cremation and see it as undignified. These religions include some fundamentalist Christian sects, Islam, and the Greek and Orthodox Jewish religions.

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