tips for planning a funeral for yourself

4 Fascinating Facts About Cremation

If you are considering having yourself cremated after death, or if one of your loved ones has requested this service, you may have some understandably mixed feelings on the issue. Unlike burial, in which the body is reduced gradually by the forces of time and nature, cremation leaves nothing but ashes within a matter of hours. But whether you're enthusiastic, hesitant, or simply puzzled about this method of disposition, there's more to it than you probably realize. Here are four facts about cremation you may never have considered.

1. Not All Cremation Involves Fire

A typical cremation exposes the remains to extreme heat supplied by intense, propane-fueled flames. While this method is certainly effective, some ecologically-minded individuals may feel concerned about its environmental impact. You might not realize, however, that cremation doesn't always have to involve fire -- any extreme heat will accomplish the task.

One alternative to flame-based cremation is a process known as bio cremation. Bio cremation derives the necessary heat from a chemical reaction between potassium hydroxide and water. The extreme thermal energy generated by the interaction between these two substances reduces the remains just as effectively as traditional cremation techniques -- with no need to burn large amounts of nonrenewable resources.

2. The Ashes Can Be Repurposed into Remembrance Pieces

If the idea of an urn sitting on the mantelpiece strikes you as unsettling or depressing, you should know that there are alternatives for commemorating a cremated loved one. The ashes may be repurposed into art objects reflecting the loved one's personality, interests and beliefs. These may include hand-crafted decorative glass pendants, ceramic pieces, and other remembrances that incorporate the ashes into their materials. 

One type of remembrance made possible by modern technology is the creation of diamonds from cremation ashes. Some companies can craft diamonds in a variety of colors and cuts for use in rings, pendants, and other bejeweled family heirlooms that can be passed down from generation to generation.

3. Laws Apply to Ash Scattering

TV and film presentations sometimes show characters scattering their loved ones' ashes in a variety of locales and environments, from the beach to the desert, in accordance with the final wishes of the deceased. But don't take this rather casual depiction of the act to heart until you've looked into the local or federal laws associated with it. For instance:

  • Scattering of ashes at sea cannot take place within 3 nautical miles of the shoreline. (The depth of the water doesn't matter, however, unlike burials at sea.)
  • As long as you're within the city limits, you must obey municipal ordinances regarding the scattering of ashes.
  • Scattering ashes in a national park generally requires written permission from the park service. You may also be restricted to performing the ceremony away from public view or water sources.

4. Cremation Doesn't Exclude Other Services

Some people think that they're limited to either cremation or some other service such as burial for their final wishes. This may cause them to hesitate due to religious or social conventions that favor traditional burial methods. But the truth is that there's nothing stopping you or your loved ones from combining cremation with another service. For instance, the urn can be interred as part of a standard funeral ceremony, allowing those who believe strongly in burial to be satisfied that the remains are going to their proper final resting place.

When you consider that human remains always return to their raw materials no matter what disposition method is used, it's possible to view cremation as just another means of achieving that universal outcome. Talk to your funeral home about integrating cremation into a dignified, respectful, and meaningful commemoration.