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Cremation Questions - If I am cremated, can I be buried with my spouse even if he or she was in a casket?

What is cremation?

To begin with, it is probably easier to describe what cremation isn't. Cremation is not final disposition of the remains, nor is it a type of funeral service. Rather, it is a process of reducing the human body to bone fragments using high heat and flame.

Is cremation a substitute for a funeral?

No, cremation is an alternative to traditional casketed earth burial for the body's final disposition and often follows a traditional funeral service.

Is any other preparation required prior to cremation?

It is essential that pacemakers and other medical devices be removed prior to cremation. They may explode when subjected to high temperature, which can be hazardous to crematory staff and equipment. In addition, any special mementos, such as jewelry, will be destroyed during the cremation process. Anything you wish to keep should be removed by the funeral director before the casket or container is transferred to the crematory. Items of significance can always be placed in the urn at a later time.

What happens during the cremation process?

The casket or container is placed in the cremation chamber, where the temperature is raised to approximately 1400 degrees to 1800 degrees Fahrenheit. After approximately 3 hours, all organic matter is consumed by heat or evaporation. The remaining bone fragments are known as cremated remains. The cremated remains are then carefully removed from the cremation chamber. Any metal is removed with a magnet and later disposed of in an approved manner. The cremated remains are then processed into fine particles and are placed in a temporary container provided by the crematory or placed in an urn purchased by the family. The entire process takes approximately three hours. Throughout the cremation process, a carefully controlled labeling system ensures correct identification.

Is the body exposed to an open flame during the cremation process?

Yes, the body is exposed to direct heat and flame. Cremation is performed by placing the deceased in a casket or other container and then placing the casket or container into a cremation chamber or retort, where they are subjected to intense heat and flame.

Is it true that the bones are crushed after cremation? I've heard you don't get ashes back -- what do you get?

A complete cremation is a two-step process. Firstly, the actual exposure of the deceased to several hours of intense heat and flame; after which the remains are mostly ash except for certain bone fragments, then the entire remaining ash and fragment volume is gathered and processed, creating a uniform powder-like texture.

How do I know that we have received the right body after cremation?

The crematorium records essential information into a ledger which assigns a number to the deceased individual. There is a prenumbered metal disk which accompanies the deceased person through the entire cremation process. After the cremation has been completed, this metal disk is left with the cremated remains to ensure identification. A label is then attached to the outside of the cremation urn with the name of the deceased and also the number assigned for the cremation, included with the particulars for verification.

Are cremations done individually?

Yes. Laws generally provide that only one person may be cremated at a time. However, in some areas, the remains of family members may be cremated together with the consent of the next-of-kin.

I would like a funeral, but I prefer to be cremated. Can I do that?

Yes you can. The fact that a person or their family chooses cremation as a final form of disposition makes absolutely no reference to the type of services which can be held prior to the cremation. In fact, many families choose to have traditional gatherings, visitations and/or viewings and funerals with their deceased family member's physical body present prior to the cremation. For us, the underlying theme is that all families should and do have choices. It is our responsibility to insure they understand their options, and their decisions should be made with the best possible information available.

Is a casket required?

For sanitary reasons, ease of placement and dignity, most crematories require that the deceased be cremated in a combustible, leak proof, rigid, covered container. This does not need to be a casket as such. What is required is an enclosed, rigid, container made of wood or other combustible material to allow for the dignified handling of human remains. The type of casket or container selected is really a personal decision. Caskets and containers are available in a wide variety of materials ranging from wooden containers to beautifully handcrafted maple, oak, ash or elm caskets.

Can a casket be rented instead of purchased when choosing cremation?

Many funeral homes offer a ceremonial casket for viewing or funeral services prior to cremation. The ceremonial (or rental) casket is specifically designed to provide a very pleasing and affordable alternative to purchasing a casket for a cremation service.

What can be done with the cremated remains?

With cremation, your options are numerous. The cremains can be interred in a cemetery plot, i.e., earth burial, retained by a family member, in an urn, scattered on private property, or at a place that was significant to the deceased. (It is always advisable to check for local regulations regarding scattering in a public place.) Cremation, which is the preparation of the human remains for memorialization is just one step in the commemorative process. Today, there are many different types of memorial options from which to choose. Memorialization is a time-honored tradition that has been practiced for centuries. A memorial serves as a tribute to a life lived and provides a focal point for remembrance, as well as a record for future generations. The type of memorial you choose is a personal decision. The limit is set only by your imagination.

What is memorialization for a cremation?

Most people choose ground burial of the urn. If so, you may select a bronze memorial or granite monument. Also available at many cemeteries are cremation niches in columbariums. Many cemeteries also offer scattering gardens. This area of a cemetery offers the peacefulness of a serene garden where family and friends can come and reflect.

What is a columbarium?

A columbarium is constructed above ground and contains numerous small compartments (niches) designed to hold urns containing cremated remains.

If I'm going to be cremated, why would I want my remains to be placed in a columbarium, or interred or scattered at the cemetery? Why shouldn't I just have them scattered in a lake or in some other place of my choosing?

As long as it is permitted by local regulations, the cremated remains can be scattered in a place that is meaningful to you. This can, however, present difficulties for your survivors. Some people may find it hard to simply pour the mortal remains of a loved one out onto the ground or into a lake. If you wish to be scattered somewhere, it is therefore important to discuss your wishes ahead of time with the person or persons who will actually have to do the scattering. Another difficulty with scattering can occur when the remains are disposed of in an anonymous, unmarked or public place. Access to the area may be restricted for some reason in the future, undeveloped land may be developed, or any of a host of other conditions may arise that could make it difficult for your survivors to visit the site to remember you. Even if your cremated remains are scattered in your backyard, what happens if your survivors relocate sometime in the future? Once scattered, cremated remains cannot be collected. Having your remains placed, interred or scattered on cemetery grounds ensures that future generations will have a place to go to remember. If remains are scattered somewhere outside the cemetery, many cemeteries will allow you to place a memorial of some type on the cemetery grounds, so survivors have a place to visit that will always be maintained and preserved.

Why is having a place to visit so important?

Because it provides a focal point for memorializing the deceased. To remember, and be remembered, are natural human needs. Throughout human history, memorialization of the dead has been a key component of almost every culture. Psychologists say that remembrance practices, from the funeral or memorial service to permanent memorialization, serve an important emotional function for survivors by helping to bring closure and allowing the healing process to begin. Providing a permanent resting place for the deceased is a dignified treatment for a loved one's mortal remains, which fulfills the natural human desire for memorialization.

If I am cremated, can I be buried with my spouse even if he or she was in a casket?

Yes. Depending upon the cemetery's policy, you may be able to have the cremated remains buried on top of the casketed remains of your spouse, or utilize the space provided next to him/her. Many cemeteries allow for multiple cremated remains to be interred in a single grave space.

Can I take the cremated remains home?

Yes. The remains are normally placed in an urn. Most families select an urn that is suitable for placement on a mantle or shelf. Urns are available in a variety of shapes, sizes and materials.

Can The Family Witness The Cremation?

Yes, in many cases, cremation providers will allow family members to be present when the body is placed into the cremation chamber. In fact, some religious groups include this as part of their funeral custom.

What about urns?

Urns are used as a permanent container for cremated remains. They can be made from a variety of materials such as bronze, marble, porcelain, ceramic and hardwoods, and are available in many shapes and styles. The urn may be placed in a columbarium, which is a building or structure for cremated remains, where single niche  spaces or family units may be selected. Niches are generally recessed compartments enclosed by either glass protecting an engraved urn or ornamental fronts upon which the names and dates are inscribed. Urns may also be buried in family lots or, in many cemeteries, there are specially designed areas for the interment of urns, called urn gardens. Urns may also be kept at the home of a survivor, in remembrance of the deceased. If the family chooses to scatter the cremated remains, the family may keep the urn in any of these places as a memorial to the deceased.

What is a keeper or sharing urn?

A keepsake urn has been designed for those who wish to keep a small portion of the cremated remains and/or a lock of hair in their personal possession.