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Frequently Asked Questions About Cremation

by The Cremation
Association of North America

is a cremation service different from a traditional funeral service?

It isn't. At least it doesn't have to be different. The extent and content
of a cremation service is entirely subject to the wishes of the family.
They may choose as much or as little formality as they feel they want
to have, and they also have more options when cremation is chosen. Quite
often a memorial service is held after cremation has occurred, or the
family can gather at a convenient time for the final committal of the
cremated remains.

Is a casket required
for cremation?

Most crematories associated with CANA
require that the body at least be enclosed and in an acceptably rigid
container. This container or casket must be strong enough to assure the
protection of the health and safety of the operator.

It should provide a proper covering for the body and meet reasonable
standards of respect and dignity. Some crematories will accept metal caskets,
but most require that the casket or container be fashioned of a combustible
material. The body is cremated in the same enclosure in which it arrives
at the crematory.

How is cremation

The enclosed body is placed in the cremation chamber, where through heat
and evaporation it is reduced to its basic elements, which are referred
to as cremated remains. It may surprise many to learn that ashes are not
the final result, since cremated remains have neither the appearance nor
the chemical properties of ashes--they are, in fact, bone fragments. After
preparation, these elements are either placed in a permanent urn or in
a temporary container that's suitable for transport.

Depending upon the size of the body, there are normally three to nine
pounds of fragments resulting. Some crematories process the cremated remains,
thereby reducing the space they require. Others do not alter their condition
after they are removed from the chamber.

Isn't cremation an
end in itself?

Some people may regard it as such, but most families feel that the cremated
remains of someone they love should be afforded a resting place that can
be identified by the name and dates. This is memorialization. Most families
find that a memorial, regardless of size, serves a basic human need to
remember and be remembered.

What choices for
memorialization are available with cremation?

A final resting place for cremated remains can be provided by various
means. The family may choose from a full selection of urns
for permanent containment of the cremated remains. The urns may be placed
in a columbarium, which is a building or structure where single niche
space or family units may be selected. Niches are recessed compartments
enclosed by either glass protecting the engraved urn or ornamental fronts
upon which the name and dates are featured.

Of course, family lots may be used, and cemeteries often permit the interment
of more than one person in an adult space if cremation has occurred. In
many cemeteries, there are also areas specifically designed for this purpose,
which are called urn gardens.

What about scattering
cremated remains (cremains)?

This may be legally done in most areas, but CANA
members believe that in consideration of the descendants of the departed
that some form of memorialization should be provided. Furthermore, there
are reasons for not scattering, because it is for many a very traumatic
experience. It can be soul-shaking to spill out all that is mortal of
someone you have known and loved. One should realize how much is being
asked of the person who is to do the scattering.

Some crematories provide scattering gardens within their dedicated property,
often with the option of personal memorials. The use of dedicated property
assures the site chosen will not be developed for some other use at some
future time.

How does the cost
of cremation differ from burial or entombment?

The basic charge for just cremation is somewhat less than traditional
burial. However, with so many items of service available to the family
both in the funeral service before and in the mode of disposition after,
it's not possible to make an accurate comparison. Again, the family has
the option to select as much or as little as they choose, and with cremation
they have more options.

Is embalming necessary
with cremation?

No, but the factors of time, health, and possible legal regulations and
religious beliefs might make embalming prior to cremation either appropriate
or necessary. As a point of information, heart pacemakers or similar devices
should be removed, because they may become dangerous when subjected to
the extreme heat of the cremation chamber.

Are more people choosing
cremation today?

Yes, more people are choosing cremation today. The subject should certainly
be resolved among family members since that determination will have to
be made at the time of death. The family should visit the crematory to
learn what's offered in the way of services and memorial property.

The family should get together ahead of time to decide what is best for
all. Arrangements for memorialization also should be made at this time.
This way, one of life's most difficult decisions need not be made alone
at a time of grief and confusion.

This information was updated September, 2000.

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