Thinking Ahead

Week 4: Planning Services

Choosing how you want to be cared for after death can be uncomfortable, but it can actually be one of the easiest parts of this process. Thinking Ahead about a cremation or burial can save loved ones’ time and money while allowing them to focus on their grief. And there is nothing more comforting at the time of death, than knowing that everything is happening exactly as the one who passed away would’ve wanted it. This is your time to provide that comfort and peace of mind.

Talk About It

Loved ones may be able to tell you if there are already some plans made for you already. For example, a parent or sibling might inform you about a family mausoleum or burial plot. A spouse may state that they wish to have their ashes mixed with yours or to be buried beside you. Consider their wishes while clarifying your own.

Day 22: Disposition Method

Cremation and burial are the most popular forms of disposition, and we’ll go over what both of these forms include over the next two days. However, there are a couple of other ways to be cared for. While they are all valid choices, describing them can be a little graphic. You don’t have any tasks for today. This is just extra information for you.

Donating your body to science is probably another form of disposition that you’ve heard of. It’s similar to organ donation except your whole body is donated instead of a few organs. Often, you have to choose between being an organ donor and donating your body to science. The body is then used for medical research and for training new doctors for surgery and other medical practices. Whatever is left after a certain time is cremated and either scattered or returned to the family. There are numerous registries to contact to learn more about the process.

Cryonics is the act of freezing the body and storing it. The idea is that future technology may allow scientists to unfreeze the body and revive the person. Currently there are huge issues with ice crystals damaging the brain and other essential body parts beyond repair, but the technology is still developing.

Alkaline hydrolysis is the scientific name for “water cremations” or “flameless cremations.” Essentially, the body is liquefied, and what is left over is separated: into remains similar to ashes from normal cremation and water that is sent through a waste management system.

Day 23: Burial Facts

A burial is commonly considered the traditional way to put a loved one to rest, and the process has become highly ritualized. There are numerous pieces to consider including the plot or vault, gravestone or marker, casket, the liner for the plot or vault, cemetery fees, and potentially embalming. These add-ons make burial a fairly expensive option, but it does allow a place where loved ones can go to mourn their loss.

When choosing a burial plot, be mindful of local laws. While in some rural areas it is possible to be buried in a backyard or other privately owned land, most laws require that local authorities be notified, as burials near bodies of water can create a health hazard.

  • Decide if burial is right for you
    • If so, contact a funeral home that specializes in burial services to learn more about your options

Day 24: Cremation Facts

Cremation has recently surpassed burial as the most common choice for end-of-life care services. With many religions recently lifting their bans on cremation, the high level of mobility on today’s population, and the more affordable options through cremation, it’s no wonder that 2 out of 4 Americans are choosing cremation.

However, cremation is the most final form of care. Bodies can be exhumed, but there is no reversing the cremation process. A reputable funeral home will have numerous checks to ensure that someone in their care is returned to the correct family. We use a metal tag identification system that stays with someone throughout the cremation process.

Cremation only requires a “suitable container,” meaning an urn, but the options for what to do with cremation ashes is nearly endless. Ashes can be buried in a cemetery, scattered in a meaningful place, split among loved ones, or even turned into a diamond.

  • Decide if cremation is right for you
    • If so, contact a funeral home or cremation society that specializes in cremation services. We would be happy to assist you in this way.

Day 25: What We Do

You’ve been on this preplanning journey for a while, and you probably have an idea of what you want to do, at least when it comes to the basics. We just wanted to let you know a little about what we do and how we can make some of this intense planning so much easier.

We are a company that allows you to preplan your cremation services so your loved ones don’t have to. We also care for those who haven’t created a plan, but we’ve noticed that families are much less stressed when there is a plan in place.

We particularly specialize in direct cremation services, meaning that we take a loved one into our care immediately and complete our services without a formal funeral. You can have an informal viewing before the service is completed, but many of our members choose to have a memorial service instead of a funeral for a variety of reasons. We’ll explain the difference tomorrow.

We combine all of our services into an all-inclusive package to make planning simple and effective. Surprise charges for necessary services may be common at discount cremation providers, but not at Cremation Society of Pennsylvania. With multiple packages available, families can choose a package and personalize it for their own needs.

The best part is that at the time of need, your loved ones just have to make one call to us, and then we take care of everything from the first transportation to the final scattering or return to the family.

Day 26: Remembrance Event

A funeral is the traditional way to honor a loved one who has passed, but you can also choose to plan a memorial service for yourself. Both are different styles of remembrance events, the event when family and friends come together to remember someone who has passed away. A funeral home may or may not directly assist with planning a remembrance event, but they most likely have good advice on vendors and locations for such services.

A funeral is characterized by having the body present in an open or closed casket. It must happen within a few days of the death and occurs before burial or cremation.

A graveside service is specific to burial, and it often accompanies a funeral. As the deceased is lowered into the grave, a religious leader may say a prayer or blessing, and the family can say their goodbyes.

A memorial service is very similar to a funeral except that the full body is not present. This usually takes place after burial or cremation, and in the case of cremation the ashes may be present in an urn. These can be scheduled just after a passing or years afterward, giving more flexibility to families than you would have in a traditional funeral.

Interment services are an alternate name for graveside services but a bit more general to include the service of placing an urn in its final resting place, whether that is a columbarium, a burial plot, or elsewhere.

Scattering is when the ashes of someone who chose cremation are scattered in honor of their passing. This is usually an informal, private event, but it can be more or less formal.

  • Think about what memorial services you would want.
  • Decide the order of these services, keeping in mind whether you would like cremation or burial. For example, you can’t scatter if you choose burial.

Day 27: Themes

Today, think about how you want your end-of-life care to feel for your loved ones and how you want it to honor your life. Do you want to have a more traditional, somber memorial where loved ones are encouraged to reflect upon your life with serious reverence? Then the traditional route of memorialization may be right for you.

However, a new trend is emerging from people who think traditional funerals are too depressing or don’t reflect how they want to be remembered. A “celebration of life” is more like a wedding than a traditional funeral. They’re characterized by wacky themes and a generally lighter atmosphere than a traditional funeral. For example, a celebration of life for an avid fisherman might include going deep sea fishing followed by eating at a favorite seafood restaurant.

If you are a veteran, this is also a good time to look over the benefits that you may be eligible for. Veterans are entitled to receive a memorial flag, military honors, and other benefits when they pass away. A funeral director can assist you with securing these benefits or at least letting your loved ones know how to do so.

  • Decide if you want a traditional remembrance event or a “celebration of life.”
  • If you wish to have a “celebration of life,” decide what kind of general themes of your life you want included.
  • If you’re a veteran, write down all the memorial benefits you are eligible for and who to contact to receive them.

Day 28: Scattering 101

As a cremation provider, we have a lot of experience with cremation memorials, including scattering. However, there are a few common misconceptions about the practice, and we thought today would be a great day to clarify a few.

1. Cremation ashes are not harmful or toxic. In fact, they are almost pure carbon, a natural element found in every living thing. It’s completely safe to handle them. However, they usually appear a powdery light gray as opposed to darker ashes from a fireplace. This makes them difficult to blend into dirt, so most laws encourage families to not scatter all ashes in a pile on the surface.

2. You can’t scatter just anywhere. If you scatter on private property, you need permission from the owner, and most public properties require some kind of permit. Scattering on beaches or in certain inland waterways is also illegal, but you can scatter at sea if you’re at least 3 nautical miles from shore. You aren’t likely to be arrested or fined if you disobey these laws, but scattering in highly populated areas may disturb others who frequent the area and may not feel comfortable with cremation.

3. Scattering often requires a special urn, especially for water scatterings. If the urn is not biodegradable or safe for water burial, you must discard the urn separately.

4. You can scatter in multiple places and at any point in time. Some people request their loved ones to travel around the world to scatter their ashes as one last adventure with their loved ones. If you’re torn between two places to scatter, feel free to choose both. If you only want a portion of ashes scattered, then that is possible, too.

  • Decide if scattering would be the right option for you.