The practice of cremation dates back to ancient times. Today it is more common in western Europe and Japan than in the United States and Canada, where traditional earth burial is most often the choice. Perhaps this is why some people in our society have misconceptions about cremation, regarding it more as an end in itself. In recent years, however, there has been more open discussion on the subject of death, dying and funerals in general, and the role of cremation within the overall process.
Cremation is, in fact, only one in a series of events. It is a process in which the body is prepared for final disposition and, as such, is not complicated or mysterious. Over a period of 2 to 3 hours the body is transformed by intense heat to a state of small skeletal fragments, not fine ash as some people imagine.
The cremated remains of an average adult weigh from three to seven pounds. They are generally placed in a small cardboard box or other temporary container by the crematorium. Afterwards, the cremated remains are returned to the family.
Can There Be Services Or Ceremonies When Cremation Is Chosen?
Certainly. Services or ceremonies may precede or follow the actual cremation. Prior to the cremation there may be a visitation and/or funeral ceremony with the casketed body present. If a ceremony or service is conducted following cremation, the URN containing the cremated remains may take a place of prominence. This urn is taken to its final resting place following the ceremony.
Regardless of the order of events, it is for the benefit of the living that arrangements for a ceremony are made. Psychologists have established that denial is a natural part of the grieving process. Furthermore, viewing the body of the deceased can help bereaved persons begin to overcome grief by more readily accepting the fact that a death has occurred. Funeral ceremonies also have value in offering family and friends an opportunity to honour their loved one.
Today, contemporary arrangements are as individual as the persons for whom and by whom they are made. A ceremony may be individualized to reflect a specific interest or hobby of the deceased. It may highlight one's occupation or ethnic background and therefore, hold special meaning for those present. Ultimately it is our loved ones who will benefit from the gathering or life's celebration.
The funeral ceremony is not unlike other ceremonies that distinguish our lives. Baptisms, graduations, weddings and such all serve to recognize a significant event in a person's life. The funeral ceremony likewise recognizes the final event in a person's life and offers loved ones a chance to say a last good-bye.
What Choices Are Available For Final Disposition Of Cremated Remains?
The type of memorialization desired usually influences the decision regarding final disposition of cremated remains. Just as ceremonies offer value to the living, so does establishing a permanent memorial. It serves as a focal point for the remembrance of a loved one and can help in overcoming grief.
Usually cremated remains are placed in some type of permanent receptacle, or urn, before being committed to a final resting place. Sometimes the urn is kept in the home. Similarly, it may be placed in a columbarium niche where it may be viewed through a protective glass or sealed behind a memorial plaque.
Burial in a cemetery plot or an urn garden are other options that provide for the placement of a memorial plaque or marker at the site. Some cemeteries have special gardens where cremated remains may be scattered. In areas where it is permitted by law, cremated remains may be scattered over land or water. However, this decision should be carefully considered.
Although the act of scattering over land or water may have some romantic appeal, it is an irreversible decision. If no permanent memorial site is established, survivors may later experience regret, feeling that the bond is forever broken. For this reason, a plaque or marker in the general vicinity of the scattering site may be desirable. It might also be possible to plant a tree or flowers in a significant place to serve as a memorial to the one who died.
What Costs Are Involved?
Costs vary somewhat from region to region and according to the type of services that are used. Funeral services are like anything else: the more elaborate the arrangements, the more they will cost. They can range from several hundred to several thousand dollars.
Other factors affecting cost include the type of ceremony conducted, the choice of cremation container or casket, the form of memorialization, the selection of an urn, and so on.
Urns are made from a variety of materials including marble, cloisonne, bronze or hardwood and are of different designs to suit individual preferences. Their costs will vary according to the materials used and design selected. Likewise, cremation containers will vary in cost. Most crematories require a closed container to protect the health of operators and for the dignity of the deceased. Minimum containers made of pine or particleboard are generally available. Attractive hard or softwood caskets are suitable for cremation and for ceremonies prior to cremation.
All aspects of funeral arrangements are a combination of personal preference and financial circumstances. Tom can provide detailed information on all the services available along with specific costs for each. He can also explain legal requirements and be sure all the proper forms are completed.
How Does A Funeral Director Help In Making Arrangements?
As a qualified funeral director, Tom is skilled and licensed to assist with every detail of making funeral and cremation arrangements. This includes offering advice and guidance throughout the decision-making process, answering questions about local customs and costs, assuring that legal requirements are met, and providing whatever equipment, facilities and technical services are necessary or desired. Tom's desire is to carry out the wishes of his families with understanding and consideration for everyone concerned.
When it is practical or possible, making funeral arrangements in advance of need can provide the peace of mind that all details have been taken care of in a way that is satisfying to oneself and one's survivors. A family discussion combined with the counsel of a funeral director can assure that everyone involved feels comfortable with the arrangements. Certainly we all would prefer that our loved ones are able to say afterward, "I'm glad we did" rather than "I wish we had." Pre-planning can help accomplish this goal.
Today, making any kind of funeral arrangements involves many choices and decisions. It is helpful to consider all the options and take time to ask questions before making final decisions about such an important event.
It is Tom's intent to help make the entire experience as comfortable as possible.