Frequently Asked Questions
Funeral & Burial Questions
What is the purpose of a funeral?
Funerals provide surviving family members and friends a caring, supportive environment in which to recognize the death of a loved one and to share thoughts and feelings about that person. Funerals are the first step in the healing process. The ritual of attending a funeral service provides many benefits including:
- Providing a social support system for the bereaved
- Helping the bereaved understand death is final and part of life
- Integrating the bereaved back into the community
- Easing the transition to a new life after the death of a loved one
- Providing a safe haven for embracing and expressing pain
- Reaffirming one's relationship with the person who died
- Providing a time to say good-bye
It is possible to have a full funeral service even for those choosing cremation. The importance of the ritual is in providing a social gathering to help the bereaved begin the healing process.
I've never arranged a funeral before. What do I need to know?
At some time in our lives, most of us will make or assist in making funeral arrangements. This will not be an easy time, but we offer these tips for smart planning:
- Be an informed consumer and ask questions
- Choose an independent funeral home and a licensed funeral director
- Discuss all service and payment options during the funeral arrangements
- Make sure you receive a copy of the funeral home's General Price List
- Be prepared to make decisions and organize details in advance of need
- Plan a personalized and meaningful ceremony to help you begin healing
How are funeral expenses paid for?
We consider it an honor and a privilege to assist you in arranging services that meet your individual, family, and financial preferences. We invite you to discuss freely and frankly with us any questions you may have regarding any and all aspects of our services, including our fees.
Provisions for payment are due at the time of arrangements. For your convenience, we accept the following methods:
- Cash/Check/Debit Card
- Insurance Assignment of a Verifiable Policy
- Funded Pre-Arrangement
What do funeral directors do?
Funeral directors are caregivers and administrators. They make the arrangements for the transportation of the deceased, complete all necessary paperwork, and implement the choices made by the family regarding the funeral and final disposition of the deceased.
Funeral directors are listeners, advisors, and supporters. They have experience assisting the bereaved in coping with death. Funeral directors are trained to answer questions about grief, recognize when a person is having difficulty coping, and recommend sources of professional help. Funeral directors also link survivors with support groups at the funeral home or in the community.
What types of funeral services exist?
Every family is different, and not everyone wants the same type of funeral. Funeral practices are influenced by religious and cultural traditions, costs, and personal preferences. These factors help determine whether the funeral will be elaborate or simple, public or private, religious or secular, and where it will be held. They also influence whether the body will be present at the funeral, if there will be a viewing or visitation, and, if so, whether the casket will be open or closed and whether the remains will be buried or cremated.
Why have a public viewing?
Viewing is part of many cultural and ethnic traditions. Many grief specialists believe that viewing aids the grief process by helping the bereaved recognize the reality of death. Viewing is encouraged for children as long as the process is explained and the activity voluntary.
What is the purpose of embalming?
Embalming sanitizes and preserves the deceased, retards the decomposition process, and enhances the appearance of someone disfigured by traumatic death or illness. Embalming makes it possible to lengthen the time between death and the final disposition, thus allowing family members time to arrange and participate in the type of service most comforting to them.
Is embalming required by law?
No. Most states, however, require embalming when death is caused by a reportable contagious disease or when a deceased is to be transported from one state to another by a common carrier, or if final disposition is not to be made within a prescribed number of hours.
Is cremation a substitute for a funeral?
As more people are choosing cremation, funeral service professionals are striving to give consumers a true sense of what their many options are for a funeral service. Often funeral directors find that people have a preconception that they have fewer choices for a ceremony when selecting cremation for themselves or a loved one. Therefore, they request direct cremation and deny the surviving friends and family the opportunity to honor them with a memorial service. In actuality, cremation is only part of the commemorative experience. In fact, cremation can actually increase your options when planning a funeral. Cremation gives people the flexibility to search for types of tributes that reflect the life being honored. But, this doesn't mean that aspects of traditional funeral services have to be discarded. Even with cremation, a meaningful memorial that is personalized to reflect the life of the deceased could include:
- A visitation prior to the service
- An open or closed casket
- Special music
- A ceremony at the funeral chapel, your place of worship, or other special location
- Participation by friends and family
Commonly, cremated remains are placed in an urn and committed to an indoor or outdoor mausoleum or columbarium, interred in a family burial plot, or included in a special urn garden.
Cremation also gives families the option to scatter the remains. This can be done in a designated cemetery garden or at a place that was special to the person. Today, cremated remains can even become part of an ocean reef or made into diamonds.
What happens during the cremation process?
The casket or container is placed in the cremation chamber, where the temperature is raised to approximately 1400 degrees to 1800 degrees Fahrenheit. After approximately 2 to 2 1/2 hours, all organic matter is consumed by heat or evaporation. The remaining bone fragments are known as cremated remains. The cremated remains are then carefully removed from the cremation chamber. Any metal is removed with a magnet and later disposed of in an approved manner. The cremated remains are then processed into fine particles and are placed in a temporary container provided by the crematory or placed in an urn purchased by the family. The entire process takes approximately three hours. Throughout the cremation process, a carefully controlled labeling system ensures correct identification.
Who can offer cremation and what about cremation societies?
Cremation is an option offered by many funeral homes. While some people may believe cremation is available only at a cremation society or crematory, this is not true.
A cremation society is simply a business that performs cremations. They may offer membership for a fee, which entitles you to a small discount on their price for a cremation.
At our funeral home, we can handle the cremation and help you design memorial services that are most meaningful to you. We have had many years of experience working with families who choose cremation. So, if you would like to discuss cremation, or any other options, talk to us and ask for current prices and services. Remember, a cremation society is not your only choice.
What does a funeral home offer that a cremation society may not?
There are several factors to consider when choosing cremation and the service provider to whom you will entrust the care of your family.
- Our funeral home is proud to offer all types of funeral services to families in need, including both cremation and burial services.
- There are many choices available to you when choosing cremation. Direct cremation is one of those choices, and is often the most common option that low-cost providers advertise and offer in order to generate interest in their firm.
- Cremation societies are generally low-cost providers that require a membership fee as part of providing service to individuals. Our funeral home does not require membership fees, and you do not need to sign up ahead of time to receive our professional service.
- Our costs are clearly stated for any family who chooses to use our services. Our direct cremation option, without any attendant rites or ceremonies, includes removal, local transportation, the cremation process, and the necessary service of our professional staff for completion of the cremation and paperwork. Our direct cremation fee can also include the price of the alternative cremation container if your family wishes. (The crematory requires an acceptable alternative container. Our staff can provide additional information regarding the cremation container.)
- Our funeral home offers the option of pre-paying for cremation. If you pre-fund your cremation service with us, all funds invested are TAX FREE and you will receive compounded annual growth. (Be aware that some cremation societies may issue a 1099 interest statement that you will need to present to your tax preparer declaring your growth as taxable income.)
- We provide immediate assistance to families who need us and we are here to help you with all of your questions, including probate, social security, Veterans services and more. Unlike others who may not be staffed as we are, we can provide round-the-clock assistance and answers to any questions you might have.
- We are your local funeral home. Many times, we know the families we serve and we strive to give every family the care and compassion we would want for our own loved ones. We provide the personal, attentive, and compassionate service your family deserves. Our care extends beyond the service to our ongoing Family Care Program, Support Groups, as well as community seminars and events to help families through the grieving process.
- If necessary, our funeral home reserves the right to match any competitor’s prices if you will present the competitor’s price list so each consideration can be discussed and addressed. In order to give your family the ability to make the most informed decisions, we would be happy to set up a time to visit with you concerning any questions you may have. We provide this consultation at no charge.
- We strive to make families aware of the personal and professional services we can provide. We want families to know we are here to help from the moment they need us, and through their journey of grief. Our expertise and experience in guiding families during the difficulty of losing someone they love is just one of the many reasons families value the services of our funeral home over those of a low-cost provider or cremation society.
When after death can a cremation take place?
Because cremation is an irreversible process and because the process itself will eliminate any ability to determine exact cause of death, many states require that each cremation be authorized by the coroner or medical examiner. Some states have specific minimum time limits that must elapse before cremation may take place.
Is any other preparation required prior to cremation?
It is essential that pacemakers and other medical devices be removed prior to cremation. They may explode when subjected to high temperature, which can be hazardous to crematory staff and equipment. In addition, any special mementos, such as jewelry, will be destroyed during the cremation process. Anything you wish to keep should be removed by the funeral director before the casket or container is transferred to the crematory.
Why is refrigeration of the remains necessary?
Due to the irreversible nature of cremation, most states require a waiting period before the actual process may begin. Unless a body is embalmed, refrigeration is the only alternative available that will retard tissue decomposition. Refrigeration is a necessity that protects family and friends, the crematory operator and the general public from potential health hazards.
Is embalming necessary for cremation?
No. In most cases, it is your choice. It may depend on such factors as whether the family selected a service with a public viewing of the body, whether there is to be a funeral service, or whether there is refrigeration available. Embalming may also be necessary if the body is going to be transported by air or rail, or because of the length of time prior to the cremation.
Is a casket required?
No. For sanitary reasons, ease of placement and dignity, many crematories require that the deceased be cremated in a combustible, leak proof, rigid, covered container. This does not need to be a casket as such. What is required is an enclosed, rigid, container made of wood or other combustible material to allow for the dignified handling of human remains. The type of casket or container selected is really a personal decision. Caskets and containers are available in a wide variety of materials ranging from simple cardboard containers to beautifully handcrafted oak, maple or mahogany caskets.
Are there special cremation caskets?
There is a choice of very affordable cremation caskets that are completely combustible. The selection includes options from a simple pine or cloth-covered casket to a hardwood casket.
Can a casket be rented instead of purchased when choosing cremation?
Many funeral homes offer a hardwood ceremonial casket for viewing or funeral services prior to cremation. The ceremonial (or rental) casket is specifically designed to provide a very aesthetically pleasing, affordable and environmentally prudent alternative to purchasing a casket for a cremation service.
Is cremation a substitution for a funeral?
No, cremation is simply a method of preparing human remains for final disposition.
Do I have to make different funeral arrangements if I chose cremation?
It really depends entirely on how you wish to commemorate a life. One of the advantages of cremation is that it provides you with increased flexibility when you make your funeral and cemetery arrangements. You might, for example, choose to have a funeral service before the cremation; a memorial service at the time of cremation or after the cremation with the urn present; or a committal service at the final disposition of cremated remains. Funeral or memorial services can be held in a place of worship, a funeral home or in a crematory chapel.
Can we have the service before or after the cremation?
Absolutely. It's completely a matter of family preference. Many times when a family is split regarding the decision to cremate, a compromise may be achieved by having a traditional service first - to be followed by cremation.
What can be done with the cremated remains?
With cremation, your options are numerous. The cremains can be interred in a cemetery plot, i.e., earth burial, retained by a family member, usually in an urn, scattered on private property, or at a place that was significant to the deceased. (It would always be advisable to check for local regulations regarding scattering in a public place.) Cremation is just one step in the commemorative process—the preparation of the human remains for memorialization. Today, there are many different types of memorial options from which to choose. Memorialization is a time-honored tradition that has been practiced for centuries. A memorial serves as a tribute to a life lived and provides a focal point for remembrance, as well as a record for future generations. The type of memorial you choose is a personal decision. The limit is set only by your imagination.
What is memorialization for a cremation?
You might choose ground burial of the urn. If so, you may usually choose either a bronze memorial or monument. Also available at many cemeteries are cremation niches in columbariums. They offer the beauty of a mausoleum setting with the benefits of above ground placement of remains. Many cemeteries also offer scattering gardens. This area of a cemetery offers the peacefulness of a serene garden where family and friends can come and reflect.
What is a columbarium?
A columbarium, often located within a mausoleum or chapel, sometimes free-standing, either indoor or outdoor, is constructed of numerous small compartments (niches) designed to hold urns containing cremated remains.
If I'm going to be cremated, why would I want my remains to be placed in a columbarium, or interred or scattered at the cemetery? Why shouldn't I just have them scattered in the sea or in some other place of my choosing?
As long as it is permitted by local regulations, the cremated remains can be scattered in a place that is meaningful to you. This can, however, present difficulties for your survivors. Some people may find it hard to simply pour the mortal remains of a loved one out onto the ground or into the sea. If you wish to be scattered somewhere, it is therefore important to discuss your wishes ahead of time with the person or persons who will actually have to do the scattering. Another difficulty with scattering can occur when the remains are disposed of in an anonymous, unmarked or public place. Access to the area may be restricted for some reason in the future, undeveloped land may be developed, or any of a host of other conditions may arise that could make it difficult for your survivors to visit the site to remember you. Even if your cremated remains are scattered in your backyard, what happens if your survivors relocate sometime in the future? Once scattered, cremated remains cannot easily be collected back up. Having your remains placed, interred or scattered on a cemetery’s grounds ensures that future generations will have a place to go to remember. If remains are scattered somewhere outside the cemetery, many cemeteries will allow you to place a memorial of some type on the cemetery grounds, so survivors have a place to visit that will always be maintained and preserved.
Why is having a place to visit so important?
Because it provides a focal point for memorializing the deceased. To remember, and be remembered, are natural human needs. Throughout human history, memorialization of the dead has been a key component of almost every culture. The Washington Monument, Tomb of the Unknowns and Vietnam “Wall” in Washington, D.C are examples of memorialization which demonstrate that, throughout our history, we have always honored our dead. Psychologists say that remembrance practices, from the funeral or memorial service to permanent memorialization, serve an important emotional function for survivors by helping to bring closure and allowing the healing process to begin. Providing a permanent resting place for the deceased is a dignified treatment for a loved one's mortal remains, which fulfills the natural human desire for memorialization.
Can I take the cremated remains home?
Yes. The remains are normally placed in an urn. Most families select an urn that is suitable for placement on a mantle or shelf. Urns are available in a variety of shapes, sizes and materials.
How big of a price difference is there with cremation compared to standard ground burial?
The cost depends on the type of permanent memorial, location of the memorial, urn and placement selected.
Do all religions permit cremation?
Some religions prefer cremation; some do not recommend the practice; most permit you to choose. Should you have any questions or concerns, we suggest you speak with a member of your clergy, or contact your local prearrangement provider.
Where can I get more information on cremation?
We can assist you with the necessary information for a funeral or memorial service with a cremation. For more technical information about the cremation process, we encourage you to view information online at the National Funeral Directors Association.
Green Funeral Questions
Being green in funeral service is a natural progression of today's American eco-consciousness. Consumer lifestyles and values, whether environmental, spiritual, philosophical or conservation oriented, are reflected in consumer attitudes toward products and services in the market and affect decision making. This includes attitudes toward death and funerals. Green funeral choices are expected to grow in popularity in the U.S. as this eco-consciousness grows.
As with the concept of "green" in general, green in funeral service means practicing environmental consciousness and being eco-friendly. It encompasses green funeral homes, green funerals, and natural burial. Today, funeral directors have the opportunity to adopt green practices to meet the needs of the families they serve.
A green funeral incorporates environmentally-friendly options in order to meet the needs of a family requesting a green service. A green funeral may include any or all of the following: a small gathering in a natural setting, use of only recycled paper products, locally-grown organic flowers, carpooling, organic food, no embalming or embalming with formaldehyde-free products, the use of sustainable biodegradable clothing, shroud or casket, and natural or green burial.
In natural burial, the body is buried, without embalming, in a natural setting. Any shroud or casket that is used must be biodegradable, nontoxic, and of sustainable material.
Here are a few of the most common questions and answers regarding green funerals.
What is natural or green burial?
In a purely natural or green burial, the body is buried, without embalming, in a natural setting. Any shroud or casket that is used must be biodegradable, nontoxic, and of sustainable material. Traditional standing headstones are not permitted. Instead, flat rocks, plants or trees may serve as grave markers; some cemeteries use GPS to mark the locations of gravesites. A "natural or green burial" may also simply mean burial without embalming, in a biodegradable casket without a vault, when permitted by a cemetery.
What is a green cemetery?
A green cemetery is a burial site that does not permit vaults, non-biodegradable caskets or embalming chemicals. It uses no herbicides, pesticides or irrigation for maintenance of the cemetery grounds. Any material used at a green cemetery must meet the goal of replenishing the earth. There are cemeteries in the U.S. that accommodate both conventional burial practices and vaultless burial on their premises; others incorporate some features of a green cemetery such as sustainable landscape design and natural memorialization.
While most cemeteries in our area have not yet embraced the concept of green burial, we believe it may happen in the future. As funeral directors, we regularly visit with cemetery officials, and we encourage the offering of all options to families who choose burial.
What about cremation? Is it considered "green"?
In general, cremation is not considered "green" because the cremation process uses nonrenewable fossil fuels, even though cremation does use fewer resources than conventional forms of disposition. Cremation also produces airborne emissions. However, cremated remains do not need to be interred in a cemetery, which reduces land use.