Pros And Cons: Is Cremation A Good Idea?

Having your body cremated after death should be decided ahead of time to prevent loved ones' uncertainty and debate later.

To be or not to be--cremated, that's the question. Some folks vehemently reject the idea, while others firmly embrace it. What's involved with cremation, and should one opt for this procedure or for traditional embalming? Whatever you choose, be sure to designate it in your will so that family members can follow your wishes after your passing.

Cremation is a way of disposing of a person's remains. Funeral home staff members can incinerate a corpse at the family members' request or if the deceased has requested that service in a Last Will and Testament. The body is placed in a specially designed chamber at the mortuary or funeral home where fiery heat reduces the corpse to a handful of ashes and dust. Some chambers are equipped with a window where loved ones can watch the procedure, while others are closed without viewing options. Services can held before or after the incineration.

The remains are placed in a funerary urn for disposal or burial. In some cases a memorial service is held at the funeral home or the person's church, if desired, with the urn in attendance or not, depending on the family's wishes. Sometimes family members plan to release the ashes on a lake or a mountainside, or from a private plane, though legally speaking, you need to get county or state permission for scattering someone's remains in outdoor public areas. At other times the urn is treated like a casket, becoming the focus of a service and buried in a cemetery grave. Some family members choose to keep the ash-filled urn in their homes, placing it near the hearth, on the mantel, or atop a bedside stand. Eventually, most of them end up getting a grave and being interred. Funerary urns are tasteful and decorative; ask to view several options before making your choice. They may be adorned with ornate classical patterns and designs, or they may include Scriptural references or even a photo of the deceased.

Those who choose this option may do so because of repugnance for being embalmed, buried in a casket underground, or locked in a mausoleum. Before embalming became a common procedure, some people (not many, fortunately) were buried prematurely, perhaps while in a coma, and were later discovered when graves were opened to move the caskets and it was discovered some people had awakened inside and tried to get out, dying after suffocation. Other people may prefer the implied "freedom" of having their remains scattered to the four winds without confinement to a casket or a grave. A religious service may be performed at church or in the mortuary as a private or public event, depending on the family's wishes or the specifications of the deceased person's final will.

Cremation is a convenient, less costly way of dealing with the dead. Performed quickly (usually on the day of death) and presided over by clergy if desired, cremation offers a simple alternative to traditional burial. Contact a local mortician for more details when planning a loved one's funeral.

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