Is That Your Final Decision? Deciding If Cremation Is Right For You

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Trying to decide whether to cremate or bury the body of a loved one can be wrought with emotion. It is not unusual for family members to disagree about the proper way to put the body to rest. Considering the options and making your personal preferences known while you are living saves your family from the turmoil of making that final decision. Learn about the cremation process, how it has been used in history and common religious objections so you can make a decision that is right for you and your loved ones.

What is Cremation?

Nearly everyone knows that cremation involves burning the body to reduce it to ashes. What you may not know is that it's not quite that simple. After death, the body of the deceased is either embalmed or kept under refrigeration until cremation. During this time, the body can be displayed in a viewing or in a funeral service. You can also choose to hold the funeral service after the cremation and display the ashes in an urn. Here's what to expect from a cremation.

  • The body is placed in a combustible container, often referred to as a cremation casket or alternative casket, and is placed in the cremation chamber. The cremation chamber may also be called a retort or a crematory.
  • The body is subjected to flames at temperatures between 1400 and 1800 degrees Fahrenheit, explains Cremation Resource. It may take several hours to reduce the body to bone fragments and dust.
  • The remaining bone fragments are mechanically ground to a fine ash.
  • Your family is presented with your cremains to dispose of them as they wish (or per your final instructions).

History of Cremation

You may be surprised to learn that cremation was the preferred method of disposing of the deceased for thousands of years before burial was practiced.

  • The earliest cremations were thought to occur in the early Stone Age at approximately 3000 B.C., explains the Cremation Association of North America (CANA).
  • Decorative urns discovered in Russia suggest that the practice of cremation soon spread to northern Europe.
  • Both the ancient Greeks and Romans practiced cremation.
  • Early Christians viewed cremation as a Pagan ritual and deemed burial of the body the proper way to dispose of the deceased. By 400 A.D., Christian burial had replaced cremation in Europe, says CANA.
  • In 1873, Professor Brunetti of Italy created the first modern cremation chamber. He presented his invention at the Vienna Exposition, says Just three years later, Dr. Francis LeMoyne opened the first crematory in America.
  • As of 2014, nearly 50 percent of all American deaths result in cremation, says the Funeral Consumers Alliance.

Religious Objections

The Christian belief that the body should be buried so that it is ready for the resurrection still prevails in many areas, but most Christian churches now accept cremation. Consider how your choice to be cremated will be viewed by your loved ones based on their religious beliefs.

  • Christianity
    • Protestant - Nearly all protestant churches support cremation. However,Presbyterians prefer that the body is buried instead, says everplans.
    • Catholic - The Catholic Church allows cremation, but it should be performed after the Funeral Mass and the cremains should be buried or entombed. Ashes should not be scattered.
    • Eastern Orthodox - The Eastern Orthodox Church prohibits cremation.
  •  Jewish 
    • Orthodox Jews - Orthodox Jews do not support cremation.
    • Conservative Jews - Conservative Jews prefer burial, but do not prohibit cremation.
    • Reform Jews - Reform Jews approve of both traditional burial and cremation.
  • Buddhism - Cremation is allowed in Buddhism and is accompanied by chanting. The cremains may be kept by the family, enshrined or scattered at sea.
  • Hinduism - Cremation is the preferred method of disposing of the dead in Hinduism, with the exception of babies, children and Saints. 

Deciding whether you prefer to be cremated after you die is a personal one. Understanding the history of cremation and being aware of any religious objections puts you in a position to make an informed decision and gives you the information you need to support your choice should loved ones disagree. Discuss your decision with loved ones and put it in writing now to eliminate any confusion after you pass away.

For more information, contact funeral homes that offer cremation services in your area.