I am asked many, many questions regarding the funeral industry; particularly cremation. Being involved in the process daily, I seem to forget how little the general public actually knows. So I’d like to take this opportunity to answer a few common questions.
What exactly are “ashes”?
The only element of the human body which can survive the cremation process is the skeleton. Our bodies are approximately 80% water, 15% combustible (our organs), and 5% bones. Everything in the cremation process, except bones, are consumable by flame. The bones are then “processed”, resulting in a sand-like texture usually weighing between 5 and 7 pounds.
What do most people do with the ashes?
It varies. Many inter (bury) the ashes in a family plot. Some scatter the ashes at a favorite place of the deceased. Scattering cannot be done on public property, however, unless there is a specific place designated for such. Another option is to separate the ashes among the family. Small urns known as Keepsakes are sometimes used in this situation, making it more affordable to purchase several. There are other options, all relatively new, such as launching into space and making diamonds (seriously).
Do I have to buy an urn?
No. The ashes are returned to the family in what’s called a “temporary” container. It is a plastic box designed for cremated remains. However, this box would not be for display. It is suitable, however for those who choose to be buried, or for those who don’t exactly know what to do, so they simply “store” the ashes at home.
What about implanted body parts?
Before the bones are processed, all metal and titanium are removed. This would include artificial knees, hips, joints; zippers, snaps, and hooks from clothing; jewelry such as piercings, watch bands, earrings, etc., and some dental work such as partial plates and caps.
If any of these items are asked to be returned, you must do so before the cremation. Otherwise these items are sent away for recycling.
Who can authorize the cremation?
The immediate next of kin, in this order: spouse, adult children, parent, sibling, niece or nephew, aunt or uncle, other relative or friend.
How soon do you cremate after death?
In Illinois, there is a mandatory 24 hour waiting period. However, paperwork usually takes longer to complete, so that usually isn’t an option anyway. The funeral director completes the death certificate, sends it to the doctor or coroner for cause of death and signature, then the cremation permit is issued. After the cremation permit is issued, the death certificate is filed with the local registrar or county clerk, and the certified copies are issued. This all has to be completed before the cremation can be performed.
Can I authorize my own cremation?
Yes. If one so chooses, he or she may pre-arrange his or her cremation by signing their personal cremation order.