Cremation FAQ

For the simplest intents and purposes, cremation is the reduction of the human body to “ash” by means of fire.  What we seek to do here is to give more detail and answer the most frequently asked questions.  The mystery of the cremation process is one that begs a lot of questions.

The basics:

Cremation is a process that uses fossil fuels to create temperatures between 1700 and 2000 degrees to reduce the body to the calcium deposits.  In the basest of terms – cremation burns everything but the bones.  The process takes between 2 and 2.5 hours and what is left are the skeletal remains.  Almost everything else is consumed by the fire.  These bones are swept out of the cremation chamber (also called a retort) and processed to a fairly fine particulate mixture, thus the misnomer of “ash”. The consistency and color of this mixture is variable from very fine to coarse and pale to dark grey.

Cremation container, alternative container, cremation casket, temporary container and urn; what are all these containers!?

Let’s break these down so that the jargon is easier to understand.

Cremation container/Alternative container/ Cremation casket: All of these terms refer to the container that is used to place the deceased into the cremation chamber before the cremation process.  The body needs to be contained in a rigid combustible container for the safety of the crematory operator to that it can be easily stored, lifted, and moved. It must also create a barrier and contain bodily fluids. Stop for a moment to consider what things would be like without them. Unsafe and undignified.  The cremation container/alternative container can be used interchangibly, and they refer to a lower cost container with the specific design of being used for the cremation process. From a legal standpoint, the “minimum alternative container” is exactly what it says.  It is required to be offered by federal regulations in the FTC Funeral Rule. A cremation casket is a container that is like a burial casket in appearance and is designed for the presentation of the deceased for a viewing or visitation. This type of casket contains minimal metal parts for the cremation process.

The temporary container and urn perform pretty much the same function – they contain the remains after the cremation process. This is the “ashes box”.  A temporary container is almost always a plastic container with a plastic bag containing the remains inside.  Ours is a biodegradable urn with an EPA certified biodegradable bag inside.  A permanent urn is made from metal, stone or wood. These are used for permanent holding of remains, whether it be in a home, a columbarium or for in ground burial.

Do I actually get my loved one back?

Absolutely.  The care and handling of a family’s loved one is the most important thing that any cremation service or funeral home can concern themselves with.  We have yet to meet anyone in our industry that would say or do otherwise.  No matter who the competition is, we can pretty well vouch for them too – the family member that you entrust to a firm is the family member that you get back.  We have identification points at every stage in the process and each point in the process is dependent on all prior checks to move forward.

Do you ever cremate multiple people at a time?

The short answer to the question is NO.  The cremation chamber isn’t large enough to accommodate multiple average sized people. On very rare occasions, authorized multiple cremations can take place. This is usually in the rare and tragic event of the death of a parent and small child but could be authorized it two adults passed at the same time and size and circumstances allowed a family to authorize the process.

Can I get the gold fillings back?

Practically speaking – no.  The fillings, crowns, etc. will be returned in the remains, but they will be unrecognizable and unrecoverable. The heat destroys almost everything.  If this is something that you are bent on having, you will need to hire a dentist to extract the teeth prior to the cremation process. We have yet to have anyone do this, but stay tuned… there’s always a first.

What are some unique cremation options?

Most people do one of three things with their loved one’s cremated remains (in order of frequency): Keep them at home, scatter them in a special location, or place in a cemetery.  The human cremation renders somewhere between 6 – 9 pounds of cremated remains.  This is about 200 cubic inches of remains.  To give you a visual, human remains fill a box that is 4”x10”x6” which is basically the equivalent of a bread box. There are many creative ways of disposing of cremated remains use far less than the total of remains. In other words, you’re going to need to find some other place to put the rest of them. It must also be said that many of them aren’t strictly eco-friendly.  Unique options for the use of cremated remains include making a diamond, shot-gun shells or a glass vase.  It is even possible to send your loved one into orbit.  None of these options are necessarily environmentally friendly.  Check with us on pricing and options.

Can I flush the remains down the toilet?

We’ve never understood this one, but it gets asked more often than not, so take comfort in the fact that you are definitely not the first person to ask.  The answer is that it isn’t very practical.  The human remains are more sizable than you may think, and are not fluffy ash.  If you choose to flush them, it’s likely that it will be tedious and you may incur a plumber’s bill larger than the crematory bill.  From the environmental perspective, keep in mind that you are going to be flushing the toilet quite a few times.