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Cremation or Burial- What Should I Choose?

As we discussed in our last post, when it comes to decisions about your final disposition, one of the most important things you must decide is whether you will be buried or cremated. Today, we will focus on cremation for an in-depth look and to answer some questions you may have when looking at all your options.

Cremation- What is it?

According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, cremation is “the process of reducing a dead body to mostly tiny bits of bone resembling ash that involves exposing the body to flame and intense heat followed by pulverization of bone fragments”. This process is irreversible and ends with approximately 3-9 pounds of cremated remains, depending on the size of the person. Though some believe that cremation is a relatively new process, experts agree that cremation was likely prevalent in the early Stone Age, around 3000 B.C.

The Cremation Process

Every state has their own specific laws relating to the steps before, during and after cremation. In New York State, a funeral home must be used to facilitate the process of cremation. At the time of death, a funeral home must be called to transport the decedent into their care. Once this has occurred, the funeral director will complete the required authorization forms with the next of kin, complete a death certificate and acquire the necessary permits which allow the decedent to be transported to the crematory. The decedent must be transported to the crematory in a rigid vessel which contains a lid and is completely combustible. This can be a cremation casket or alternative cremation container

Once transported to the crematory and chain of custody documents completed, the crematory is then able to carry out the cremation. Every decedent is cremated individually in their own cremation chamber or retort. The process of cremation takes about 1-3 hours, depending on the weight and size of the body. Once the cremation is complete, the cremated remains are allowed to cool until they are safe to handle. At this time, a processor is used to reduce any remaining bone fragments to a uniform size. The crematory will then place the cremated remains in a temporary container that is labeled with the decedents name and cremation number. This temporary container is returned to the funeral home or family, along with a cremation certificate and can now be memorialized in the way of the families choosing.

What are my options after cremation?

When cremation is chosen as final disposition, there is often more flexibility in the planning of services and memorialization. Some choose to carry forward with including traditional elements, such as a viewing, mass, or other services prior to cremation, while others prefer the cremation be completed prior to any services. There are many options to memorialize a loved one after cremation, including holding services, burial, entombment, or memorializing at home. For some, the time that cremation allows them to make these decisions is an important factor in their choice. With the many memorialization options, families have the opportunity to honor their loved one in a way appropriate for them.

Religious Considerations

Among many things to consider when choosing cremation or burial, many people will consider their faith and religious affiliations. Throughout Christianity, the view on cremation varies greatly. Until Vatican II in the 1960s, the Catholic Church forbade cremation. When the ban was lifted, it was with the caveat that the cremated remains be buried in consecrated ground. Many fundamentalist denominations do not permit cremation, citing various bible verses to support their beliefs. The Islamic faith forbids cremation, while Buddhism and Hinduism require it. Though many religions have specific views on cremation, the decision remains a deeply personal one that must be decided by each individual person.

Funeral arrangements and final disposition are very important personal decisions. No matter what you plan, it is important to discuss these options with your family and your chosen funeral home. By having these discussions in advance, your family will know your wishes and you can ensure that you will have the funeral that you wish. What are your thoughts on cremation and burial? Have you made your final arrangements, and if so, what influenced your decision? Let us know in our comments below.

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