It’s an important part of the process that a decision is made regarding the remains of the deceased, crematoriums usually provide a simple container for loved ones to carry the ashes away in, but it might be a consideration that a more robust or personalised coffer is chosen.
What happens to the remains once they have left the crematorium is left to the discretion of the family members. A popular practice is to scatter them in a place of significance, perhaps where the deceased requested beforehand. It’s only polite to make sure this is agreeable with the landowner, particularly if it’s a privately owned spot.
Alternatively, urns or containers can be placed at a cemetery or churchyard, where family or friends can go to lay flowers and remember their loved one. These areas in crematoriums are usually referred to as Gardens of Remembrance; there are typically very peaceful, well-kept sections that offer a resting place for religious people and non-believers.
If no plans have been made for the remains, either before death or after, the funeral director must make arrangements to contact the nearest living relative of the deceased. This may result in the placing of a simple plaque in the gardens at the crematorium, or in some cases an addition to a Book of Remembrance.
As an alternative or addition to a church service, crematoriums are a non-denominational venue and are not connected to any religion. In some ways this is a positive thing as any type of service is accommodated, but others view it as a negative action – if it takes place as an alternative to a religious service rather than in addition to one, there can be a less personal feel to it. Some cremation services have been known to be as short as twenty minutes, leaving attendees with the feeling of being ushered in and out as quickly as possible to make way for the next cremation.
Unfortunately, with the cost of living increasing in today’s economy, the cost of dying is likely to put some strain on the average family as well. The bill for cremation was around £400 a decade ago, but many are now reaching the £600 mark, add that to the cost of the funeral itself and final number could reach around £1200. The fee for the crematorium is going to be the lion’s share of the cost; it does vary from place to place, but generally breaks down to the cost of carrying out the cremation use of the chapel, and the fee for the medical referee.
Due to dangerous toxins being emitted when a person is embalmed and/or cremated, the EU have to carefully monitor the gases produced by crematoriums. Atmospheric dioxins and poisonous pollutants like mercury have been linked to a number of diseases. Because of scientific evidence linking one sixth of the UK’s mercury emissions to crematoriums, new filters are being installed, which will not just prevent pollutants escaping into the atmosphere, but they will also drive the cost of cremations up by around a hundred pounds.
Experimentation with different materials for the coffin can lead to a lower cost though; chipboard or even cardboard structures are proving popular due to their lower cost and lesser impact on the environment. Funeral homes are also beginning to advise families on what the deceased should be dressed in when they are cremated, as man-made fibres are more damaging to the atmosphere, natural fabrics are suggested as another option.
Although it may seem harsh to call the funeral of someone’s loved one a ‘business’, in most respects that’s exactly what it is. Companies provide an essential service for grieving families, and there is still a certain amount of paperwork that must be completed before the process can be completed. It is illegal to cremate a deceased person until the cause of death has been established, and there are several other forms that must be filled in before plans can go ahead. Once satisfied that all the paperwork is present and accurate, the Registrar of Births and Deaths will issue an Order for Burial or Cremation, which must be sent to the funeral director or crematorium as prove that permission to go ahead with a service has been given.
Of the forms required by the Registrar, the attending Doctor before death and the Doctor who confirmed the cause are expected to complete Medical Forms B and C, for a price of around £138. Form A must be filled in by the deceased’s next of kin, and is labelled an Application for Cremation, this must also be countersigned by someone acquainted with the next of kin. Finally, the Notice of Cremation contains details of the service that will take place, and is part of a binding contract that agrees to pay the cremation authority what is owed. Although essentially the same process, in Scotland there are some differences which should be duly noted. The certificate of registration of death has to be provided, and there has to be a third certificate completed by the medical referee at the crematorium. At first, this may seem like a complicated process, but once the cause of death has been established, there’s unlikely to be any major bumps in the road that prevent the deceased from being laid to rest.
There are various reasons why cremation has become common practice the world over; to begin with, it’s an answer to serious spacing problems that first became apparent at the end of the nineteenth century. Obviously, mankind wasn’t going to be able to continue burying their loved ones on spaces that were filling up at an alarming rate, so cremation was introduced to reduce the pressure on cemeteries. Since about 1940, the ritual has grown in popularity, due to the immense loss of life in both World Wars leading to a greater need for land. Not only does it ease the problem of the shrinking number of plots, but it’s also a cheaper option than a traditional ground burial, possibly one of the main reasons that cremation is favoured by around seventy percent of the UK population.
When cremation was first offered to families arranging funerals, it was thought to be a much more environmentally friendly solution to burial, and this may have been accurate in the first instance as the population was much smaller than it is now. However, recent studies have revealed flaws in current cremation practices that could all but negate the environmental argument. Pollutants that are released into the atmosphere after the cremation process are thought to be a real danger to the environment, and new filters on crematoriums have seen the prices swell considerably.
Environmental issues aside, there is still evidence to suggest that the majority of the population consider cremation their burial of choice, and there are about 250 council run establishments that offer their services, along with a large number of privately owned businesses.
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