Questions about Cremation
The retort is the cremation chamber, or furnace, into which the body is placed. Inside the retort, open flames fueled by natural gas, propane, or diesel heat the chamber to as much as 1800 degrees F. The retort is made of special heat-resistant bricks which hold and reflect the intense heat produced by the flames. Adjustable, computerized control systems monitor the interior of the retort during cremation to determine when the cremation process is complete, and then perform automatic shutdown.
Not all funeral homes or cemeteries have an on-site crematory, but instead have partnerships or affiliations with a cremation service provider.
Most cremation providers will allow you to witness the cremation of your loved one, or at least see the body placed in the cremation chamber. You may have to pay a fee for this service, and schedule an appointed time to conduct the cremation, depending on the crematory or funeral home providing the cremation.
Alkaline hydrolysis is an alternative to thermal-based cremation method. Alkaline hydrolysis uses water, potassium hydroxide, relatively low heat (177° Celsius, 350° Fahrenheit), and pressure to reduce the body to bone fragments and an inert liquid. Read more from the Cremation Association of North America (CANA) about the process and the states in which it is legal.
No. You can still have a funeral or memorial service if a person has been cremated. The cremated remains may be placed in an urn and can be present at the service or not, depending on the wishes of the deceased or the family. Cremation actually offers more flexibility than burial when planning a funeral or memorial service because there is no time frame that requires burial within a few days of death.
You can have the funeral service at either time you choose.
Yes. As with a traditional burial, you can still choose to have a final viewing prior to cremation; but in this case, you may need to have the body embalmed and either purchase or rent a casket for the viewing. If cremation is performed prior to the funeral or memorial service, you can choose to have the urn with the deceased’s ashes present at the service, or not.
Yes. In such cases, the urn is often displayed in a central place of honor. The family may also want to personalize the service by including memorabilia and photographs in the display alongside the urn.
The main difference is in the in the disposition of the body – cremation or burial. The latter often includes embalming. For the funeral ceremony itself, you can have a traditional funeral, just as if the body is present. As with a traditional burial, you can still choose to have a final viewing prior to cremation; in this case, you may need to have the body embalmed and either purchase or rent a casket for the viewing. If cremation is performed prior to the funeral or memorial service, you can choose to have the urn with the deceased’s ashes present at the service, or not. You can also still have a graveside service if the urn is interred in a burial plot or columbarium.
Memorialization options include:
- Place the ashes in an urn
- Scatter the ashes
- Bury the urn
- Place the urn in a cremation niche, or columbarium
- Keep a portion of the ashes in cremation (keepsake) jewelry
Other unusual and creative options include making a synthetic diamond from the ashes, storing the ashes in a specially designed stuffed teddy bear, mixing them into tattoo ink, and including ashes in a fireworks display. Read more about options for memorialization.
Yes. Your funeral home director can contact the cemetery to obtain all the information needed for burial. If you wish, the director can also make the arrangements for you.
In a few states, a casket or alternative container is not required for cremation. In this case, the body may be wrapped in a fabric shroud prior to going into the cremation chamber. A regular casket is not specifically required to house the body going into the cremation chamber, but some form of alternative container is normally required, such as a simple box made of combustible materials. If a viewing is to be held prior to the cremation, it may be possible to rent a regular casket for the viewing and funeral, and then purchase the alternative container for the cremation process.
Yes. You can ask the crematory or funeral home director about this option.
Yes. Also known as “alternative containers,” these caskets are made of combustible materials such as pressed wood, fiberboard, cardboard, or wood. They are usually simple and lack ornamentation. The container with the body inside is placed in the cremation chamber. The container is also burned during the cremation process.