Frequently Asked Questions



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General Funeral Questions

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What does the average funeral cost?

According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the median cost of a traditional funeral is approximately $7,045. This includes the cost of embalming and a metal casket. The purchase of the grave site and a burial vault or liner can add as much as $3,000 more to the $7,045 cost.

What is plastination?

Plastination is a process used to preserve bodies or body parts by removing the water and fat in the body and replacing it with special plastics. Plastination is used to produce anatomical specimens that do not smell or decay. The plastinated parts retain most of their original properties, and can be touched and studied. It is possible to plastinate something as small as a piece of tissue, or as large as an entire human body. Plastination is useful in preserving bodies that have been donated to science by converting them to models and teaching tools.

Can I bury the deceased on private property?

Yes, provided you are in compliance with any local and state zoning laws and other regulations, and are the owner, or have permission from the owner, of the property.

What is a direct burial?

A direct burial is the least expensive of funeral options because it involves only the most basic of funeral services. With a direct burial, the body is buried very soon after death, so no embalming is needed. The casket is usually very simple and economical, and there is no formal funeral service or pre-funeral events, such as a viewing, visitation, or wake.

What type of container or covering is used in a natural burial?

The body may be either buried in a biodegradable casket, a fabric shroud, or wrapped in a blanket or some other covering made of natural fibers.

What types of biodegradable caskets are used in a green burial?

Biodegradable caskets may be made of unfinished wood, fiberboard, pressed wood, woven grass or willow, or cardboard.

What is a natural, or green, burial?

A natural burial, also known as “green burial,” is characterized by its simplicity and natural aspects. Advocates of natural burial believe in letting nature take its course at the burial site, with as little interference or disruption from the burials as possible.

Unlike a traditional cemetery, with its concrete vaults, and casketed, embalmed bodies, a natural burial site is intended to remain as undisturbed and natural as possible in character and appearance. Bodies are not embalmed beforehand, and they are buried in a biodegradable casket, fabric shroud, blanket, etc.

Minimal environmental impact, habitat restoration and preservation of open spaces are key objectives in the movement toward natural burial, and native grasses, wildflowers, trees, and plantings are part of the natural landscaping.

Read more about natural or green burial.

Why are funerals usually held soon after the person has died?

Funerals are usually held within a few days after the death occurs, due to the problem of inevitable decomposition. Modern embalming is done to delay decomposition so that funeral services may take place. Embalming only temporarily halts the process of decomposition in a dead body, and does not preserve the body indefinitely, even within a sealed casket.

Is embalming required for a traditional funeral?

Embalming is not required by law, except in a few states where the body is going to be transported across state lines. If embalming is not performed, the funeral will need to be held very quickly following death, or other preservation methods (such as refrigeration) put in place until the funeral can be held.

What is a funeral officiant?

The funeral officiant is the person who leads the funeral or memorial service. If the memorial or funeral service is traditional or religious-based, this person may be a pastor or priest. The officiant’s role is similar to that of a master of ceremonies; he directs the service from beginning to end. The officiant’s duties include gathering information from the family in order to portray the life of the deceased; preparing and delivering a sermon or eulogy in honor of the deceased; starting and ending the service at the funeral home, conducting the graveside service, and overseeing the reception afterwards.

When and why did the custom of embalming become widespread in the United States?

Embalming was not generally practiced in America until the advent of the Civil War. Until then, most people died within their own community, and were directly buried without embalming very soon following death. But during the battles fought between 1861 and 1865, soldiers died in massive numbers, far from their homes. Many families wished to see their loved ones once more, and bury them in familiar ground. This created an urgent need for a better way to preserve the bodies, so they could be returned for later burial at home.

Dr. Thomas Holmes is credited with introducing chemical embalming in the US during this time. He reportedly embalmed over 4,000 bodies of Union officers throughout the war, as well as developing his own embalming solution, which he sold to other physicians. Around 40,000 men of the 650,000 killed during the war were embalmed.

After the war ended, embalming fell out of popularity because, once more, people who died were usually close to home and the family could provide their own death care. Interest in embalming arose again around the turn of the century. Many people are surprised to learn that embalming is a comparatively recent custom more commonly practiced in America than in many other countries.

Read more about the history of embalming.

What is cryonics?

Cryonics (or cryogenics) is the practice of freezing and storing bodies in liquid nitrogen to temperatures colder than -330 degrees Celsius. Instead of burial or cremation at the time of death, some people have chosen to be cryogenically frozen, in the hopes of being thawed and brought back to life at some point in the future. Pets have also been cryogenically frozen.

Who is responsible for the upkeep of a grave in a cemetery?

The cemetery owner is generally responsible for the upkeep and maintenance. Generally, whoever pays the property tax on the property is considered the owner. The cemetery may be owned by an individual, a corporation, or other entity, such as a church, town, city, township, county, or state.

What are grave markers made of?

Markers are commonly made of some type of durable stone such as granite, fieldstone, marble, limestone, sandstone, or slate. Other materials may include bronze or wood. Some people choose to mark a grave with a special planting, such as a tree or shrub.

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