What Is Cremation?
Cremation is the process of subjecting a dead body to intense heat and evaporation in order to reduce the organic matter to its basic elements, that is, cremated remains. The cremated body is light to dark gray in color and looks like coarse sand.
The cremated remains are not entirely in the form of ashes in the beginning as they include bone fragments and shards. Thus, after the cremation, the remains are swept and a magnet is used to remove any metals that could be present in the dust. Finally, the cremated remains are processed into fine particles through pulverization process. They usually weigh about three to seven pounds.
Cremation takes place in a special unit of a crematorium. Here, the deceased is placed in a cremation chamber or retort and exposed to a temperature of almost 1600 – 2000 degrees Fahrenheit for two to three hours.
The corpse is placed in a casket or any other container and then exposed to direct heat and flame. It is a simple, economic, yet dignified method. Moreover, when compared with burial, it helps preserve space. On the downside, though, it pollutes the atmosphere and requires energy in the form of gas and electricity.
After the cremation, you are still required to dispose of the remains. Thus, this process cannot be regarded as a substitute for a funeral. Hence, you can consider arranging for a funeral or followed by cremation, or a memorial service with the cremation urn after the cremation has been done.
Finally, the cremation remains can be interred in a cemetery plot. Besides, you have the option to scatter the ashes at a thoughtful place or float them in water. Some people also choose to keep a portion of the ashes in a keepsake urn to be displayed on a shelf, mantle, etc. at home to create a warm memory of a loved one.
Keeping a small portion of the cremation remains in cremation jewelry is another increasingly popular option. Cremation jewelry consists of items like bracelets, pendants, lockets, rings, cufflinks, and so on.
Prerequisites for Cremation
Cremation is an irreversible process. Simply put, it means that it is possible to cremate a body that has been interred in the ground, but you cannot integrate a cremated body that has been reduced to its natural elements and inorganic compounds.
Thus, once the body is cremated, it is impossible to determine the exact cause of death. Therefore, the local law may have a waiting period of up to 48 hours before the cremation to be performed.
Furthermore, several states require that the cremation be authorized by a medical examiner or coroner. Besides, a family member of the deceased may have to make a positive identification of the deceased.
In addition, it is recommended to remove any radioactive implants, pacemakers or other mechanical devices before the cremation as they may explode during the process and prove to be hazardous to the cremation staff and equipments.
Plus, it is suggested that you get jewelry items or other special metal objects removed prior to the cremation as these articles are likely to be damaged and broken down into pieces during the process.
It usually takes about two to two and a half hours for a body to be cremated. It also depends on factors like weight of the body and the operating temperature in the cremation chamber.
After the body has been reduced to the cremated body, the remains are collected in a tray and allowed to cool for a while. Finally, they are reduced to a finer consistency by pulverization process. This process, however, does not take too long.
Embalming is not necessary for direct cremation. However, you may opt for embalming to preserve the body temporarily for funeral purposes. It helps sanitize the body and delay natural tissue decomposition to allow time for public viewing. Embalming, though, may be required in case the body is to be transported by air or rail.
Cremation remains are pasty white in color. Contrary to the popular misconception, after the body is incinerated, it does not turn into black ash. Instead, there remains a mixture of dust and fragments of bones which is further processed into a fine powder after removing metal debris such as screws, nails, dental gold, titanium limbs, etc.
It is not necessary to have a casket, especially in a direct cremation service. Caskets are used just to provide a dignified way to move the body before the cremation. They are not meant for preserving the body indefinitely. Nevertheless, you are required to place the body in a rigid container (preferably, prepared from a combustible material) for direct cremation.
Yes, you may rent a casket through a funeral home for the purpose of visitation and funeral and then, transfer the body in an alternative container provided by the cremation provider for the process of cremation. Some rented caskets come with inner containers (even cardboard coffins) in which only these inner containers are cremated.
Yes, cremations should be performed individually, that is, only one body should be cremated at a time.
Burials are usually considered more expensive than cremations because of shortage of burial space.
Cremation remains are not toxic and do not present any health hazard. In fact, human ashes are considered as a sanitary natural substance. You can dispose them off by burying the ashes, scattering them on ground (or from the air), or floating them in water.
You can scatter the ashes on a private property if the owner gives his or her permission.
Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, Parsees, and all Christian denominations allow cremations. Most religions permit you to choose and some religions, in fact, prefer cremations as it is one of the oldest forms of religious disposition. This method, however, is forbidden in Orthodox Judaism, Eastern Orthodox Church, and Islam.
Families may ask to witness the cremation due to religious or spiritual reasons. Moreover, it gives them the opportunity to pray for the diseased and pay their respects. Watching a cremation also gives them assurance that their loved one’s body was handled properly. Thus, most crematories provide a witnessing service.
Cremations are performed at crematoriums in special units known as retorts or cremation chambers that are designed to handle temperatures up to 2000 degrees Fahrenheit.
Most funeral homes do not have their own cremation units but use a common crematorium. Only a small number of cremation service providers have their own crematories.
Rules and regulations for cremations tend to vary from one state to another. Thus, consumers should be aware of the laws regarding a waiting period prior to cremation, conditions for cremation containers, rules concerning authorization of the cremation, and so on.