5 Questions to Ask About Cremation

by Wendy Jacobson

5 Questions to Ask about Cremation - OneWorld Memorials

According to the Cremation Association of North America (CANA), the cremation rate in the United States has nearly doubled from 1999 to 2014. What’s more, CANA already announced that in 2015 more people were choosing cremation than burial. Still, many questions exist about the practice and the process.

We have culled a few of the most common questions about cremation. Answers to questions such as how the body is prepared to the storage of cremains in cremation urns, and more, are addressed below.

1. Who do I contact to handle the cremation?

While a crematorium actually performs cremation, you can work directly with a funeral home to handle all of the arrangements, including the transportation of the body and filling out all necessary paperwork. Due to the increase in cremations across the country, many funeral homes have crematories on site. Other funeral homes commonly subcontract the cremation to an outside party. The entire process is intended to be seamless for the customer.

Of course, you can work directly with a crematorium. Basic services generally include storage of the body, an enclosed container for the body, the actual cremation, and an inexpensive container for the ashes if the family does not provide a memorial cremation urn. Extra considerations and charges exist, however, if you choose this route. Examples include:

  • filling out the death certificate
  • obtaining a permit to transport the body
  • picking up the cremated ashes
  • planning a funeral or memorial service
  • having a permanent resting place for the ashes

2. What are the different types of cremation?

Traditional cremation involves reducing human (or pet) remains into ashes through intense heat of temperatures up to 2000 degrees Fahrenheit, produced by fire, for up to two-and-a-half hours.

Hydro cremation, on the other hand, produces the same result but uses water instead of fire. It’s a relatively new process used with humans that includes water, pressure, heat and a highly basic additive (pH 14) in a specially-designed machine that dissolves soft tissues, leaving only bone fragments to be processed into ash. Because hydro cremation is so new, it’s practiced in very few places.

3. How is a body prepared for cremation?

If you are planning a memorial viewing before a cremation, you’ll want to have the body embalmed. In addition, you’ll need a casket for the viewing; most funeral homes will provide a temporary casket at an additional cost. 

In most situations, a body is cremated first and a memorial service often follows. The body is not embalmed in this case. You do not need to purchase a casket for the cremation itself. An enclosed combustible container/casket for the cremation is required by most crematoriums for health and safety reasons.  Check with your service provider on the cost since they may have several options. A cardboard version is common. 

4. What about things like pacemakers, prosthetics and teeth?

Pacemakers are removed before the cremation because the batteries can explode from the extreme heat. An article on Medscape.com reported that “in the United States the patient or his relatives have to consent to device removal,” and that “morticians and pathologists generally remove implantable devices.” Pacemakers can be donated to charitable organizations. Prosthetic limbs are also removed prior to cremation.

As for other augmented human parts such as dentures and metal hips, organizations exist that recycle the metal parts separated from the ashes for charitable purposes.

5. When will the cremation ashes be returned?

Each funeral home and crematorium has its own process and procedure for returning the cremains to the family. Be sure to discuss this question with your funeral director or crematorium service provider. Many families we speak to are feeling stress thinking that they need to decide on a cremation urn immediately after the body of their loved one has been picked up. But, in many cases the ashes won't be returned for about a week. Generally speaking, the remains will be delivered in a heavy clear plastic bag, which is placed in a generic plastic or cardboard box. After you have received the cremains, you can then transfer the ashes into a memorial urn or artisan cremation urn of your choice. Or, you can provide the crematorium with a cremation urn prior to the cremation, and request that they transfer the ashes.

Due to the number of considerations regarding cremation, ask the funeral home or crematorium to walk you through the decision-making process. This way, all of your questions will be answered and you will know exactly what to expect.

Wendy Jacobson is a freelance writer living in Minneapolis with her husband, two kids and dog. She helped market her mother’s book, “Hands Off My Hope: Life Lessons on my Journey with Breast Cancer” at the request of her mom, who died two weeks after publishing it in 2008. She also is the editor of Minneapolis Happening, a digital lifestyle magazine about what’s happening in Minneapolis and the surrounding area.

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