What you always wanted to know about cremation but were afraid to ask…

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Many people believe that cremation is simple, direct, easier and cheaper than having a traditional visitation with a viewing followed by a burial at a cemetery.  That is all true, and it is all false as there are money-related costs and emotional costs layered into every death, and only you, the survivor will know if cremation was the right decision for the final disposition of your loved one.  Sadly, especially in this day of instant information on the internet, many discover that they have trouble finding any sort

of peace after selecting cremation. Then they go on-line, after the cremation has taken place. When they read what cremation is all about, they begin to understand their mixed emotions about how they truly feel about cremation, and by then it is too late.

It is hoped that our readers will find the answers to some of their cremation questions here and now, before they are faced with the question of what should be done with the mortal remains of someone who is near and dear to them when a death occurs.

The first thing that a reputable cremation service provider must ascertain is who is the legal authority over the mortal remains of the deceased.  There is a hierarchy in the law as to who that legal authority is and it is not always who you might think.  For instance, a spouse may believe that she is in charge of arrangements for her deceased husband.  However, the law has two layers above her and if either are in place, she has no rights regarding what will happen to her husband.  These layers can be explained when you visit with a cremation specialist at Calumet Park.

Once the legal authority is determined, Calumet Park will require that an in-person, positive ID be made.  The legal authority will then meet with a licensed funeral director to make the final arrangements.  Some people tell their funeral director that they want a simple, direct cremation.  Financially, that is the least expensive manner of disposition.  It entails some paperwork, removal of the body from the place of death to the crematory, a wait of the legal 48 hours after death before a cremation can be performed, or coroner’s permission, placement of the body in a leak-proof cardboard box that will be cremated along with the body, and the return of the ashes in a smaller box of some sort.  Direct cremation is just that – direct.  There are no goodbyes…no chance for family and friends to gather, acknowledge the death, support each other and more.  Direct cremation means, and this is harsh, here today and literally gone tomorrow.  Crudely put, direct cremation is a process that is cardboard box to cardboard box.

Please understand, Calumet Park has its own crematory, and we handle a good number of cremations every year.  Many families have a traditional funeral with viewing, followed by cremation and final placement of the cremains.  The purpose of this article is not to dissuade you from what you want.  The purpose is to educate you, before you make a final decision as to your choice of final disposition, and to help you find peace in the years to come knowing that your decision was a good one based on all the facts.  We only ask that you take the time to understand all that is involved, and then make the right decision for you and your loved ones.  The rest of this article is a straight-forward look at the cremation process as can be found in Calumet Park Funeral Chapel’s “Authorization for Cremation and Disposition” form that must be signed by the authorizing agent before a cremation will be performed at Calumet Park Crematory.

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Cremation is performed by placing the deceased in a casket or other container and then placing the casket or container into a cremation chamber or retort, where they are subjected to intense heat and flame.  During the cremation process, it may be necessary to open the cremation chamber and reposition the decedent in order to facilitate a complete and thorough cremation.  Through the use of a suitable fuel, incineration of the container and contents is accomplished and all substances are consumed or driven off, except bone fragments (calcium compounds) and metal as the temperature is not sufficient to consume them.  Due to the nature of the cremation process, any personal possessions or valuable materials, such as dental gold or jewelry (as well as any body prosthesis or dental bridgework) that are left with the decedent and not removed from the casket or container prior to cremation will be destroyed or if not destroyed, will be disposed by Calumet Park Crematory.  Arrangements must be made with the funeral chapel to remove any such possessions or valuables prior to the time that the decedent is transferred to the crematory, including any mechanical devises (pacemaker).

Following a cooling period, the cremated remains, which will normally weight several pounds in the case of an average sized adult, are then swept or vacuumed from the cremation chamber.  A reasonable effort to remove all of the cremated remains from the cremation chamber is made, but it is impossible to remove all of them, as some dust and other residue from the process are always left behind.  In addition while every effort will be made to avoid commingling, inadvertent or incidental commingling of minute particles of cremated remains from the residue of previous cremations is a possibility.

After the cremated remains are removed from the cremation chamber, all non-combustible materials (insofar as possible), such as bridgework, and materials from the casket or container, such as hinges, latches, nails,. etc., will be separated and removed from the human bone fragments by visible or magnetic selection and will be disposed of, in a dignified manner, by the crematory with similar materials from other cremations in a non-recoverable manner.

When the cremated remains are removed from the cremation chamber, the skeletal remains often contain recognizable bone fragments.  Unless otherwise specified, after the bone fragments have been separated from the other material, they will then be mechanically processed (pulverized).  This process of crushing or grinding may cause incidental commingling of the remains with the residue from the processing of previously cremated remains.  These granulated particles of unidentifiable dimensions will be virtually unrecognizable as human remains.

After the cremated remains have been processed, they will be placed in the designated urn or container.  A reasonable effort will be made to put all of the cremains in the urn or container, with the exception of dust or other residue that may remain on the processing equipment.  In the rare event that the urn or container provided is insufficient to accommodate all of the cremains, the excess will be placed in a separate receptacle.  The separate receptacle will be kept with the primary receptacle and handled according to the disposition instructions of the authorized agent.

Elevation with final sketch

It should be noted that a photo ID must be presented to the funeral home when picking up the cremains and they will be released only to the person designated by the authorized agent.  The law does have rules for disposal of cremains when not picked up within sixty days of being notified that they are ready for pick-up.

Whether a family chooses cremation or not, it should be noted that cremation is a process that speeds up the natural process of returning mortal remains to dust, as has been noted in the bible and is paraphrased  “from dust to dust”.  Cremation does not take the place of what is to be done with the mortal remains of your loved one.  At Calumet Park Cemetery, you would have many choices for final placement, from ground burial to niches (inside chapel to columbarium niches including a special columbarium just for veterans and their families) to a special back-t0-nature section, and more.

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It should be noted that your loved one’s mortal remains will never be handled by anyone except our caring staff.   You will be treated with respect and dignity and we thank you for considering Calumet Park when you decide on who will be handling your cremation needs.

The Catholic Church does permit cremations, including having the cremains at mass.  However, their rule is that the cremains be permanently placed in a niche or other suitable final resting place that is in keeping with the proper respect that should be giving to the human body.

Calumet Park understands that many families choose cremation for reasons other than economic, and has more choices available for the permanent placement of cremains than any other cemetery in the region.  For more information, go to our website at calumetparkcemetery.com or call for a one-on-one visit with one of our cremation specialists who will be at your service and who may put you at ease in helping you to make the right decision for you.  Call 2190-769-8803 to set up a private, no obligation meeting.

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