Understanding the Cremation Process, Your Loved One's Ashes, and Memorial Options
The Cremation Process
The cremation process has evolved over time. Historically, it was common to place the body of somebody who passed on top of a funeral pyre, or outdoor wooden structure, then set fire to the wood to carry out a cremation. In modern day cremations, large furnaces, or cremators, are used that reach temperatures of around 1500 to 1900 degrees Fahrenheit. The heat is contained within a cremation chamber lined with thick insulated walls. Most cremators have control systems that give attendants the ability to monitor the cremation process and make them immediately aware of any temperature fluctuations or other issues that could disrupt the process. The time required to perform a cremation is typically around 2 hours, however, this can vary depending on the type of cremator being used and size of the body being cremated.
Your Loved One’s Cremated Remains
The human body is primarily composed of water, carbon, and bone. When placed in the cremator, the high temperature eliminates organic matter (tissues, organs, etc.) through vaporization and oxidation. This process also causes water present in the body to evaporate. Various gases (largely form carbon and sulfur) and water vapor are released through the furnace exhaust system. Typically, the remains present after a cremation is performed consists of bone fragments.
After a cremation is performed, the bone fragments are left to cool (typically for thirty minutes to an hour) then are passed through a large magnet to capture any remaining metal fragments (this can include tooth fillings, medical implants, etc.). The fragments are then processed to reduce them to a denser form (similar to sand) with a uniform pale grey to dark grey appearance. The cremated remains of an adult will typically weigh 4 to 6 pounds.
Because no organic material remains after a cremation is performed, cremated remains do not present any health issues for the living, or the environment. In addition, the high heat used during the cremation process leaves little to no trace of the biodegradable casket or container that a body is typically placed in prior to and during cremation. After a body is cremated, the skeletal structure and small amounts of salts and minerals remain. A human skeletal structure, comprised mainly of calcium phosphate and carbonates, has the strength and durability to survive the cremation process where other body tissues do not.
Every person’s ashes, or cremated remains, also present different element levels making them unique to that person. This is referred to as a person’s elemental signature, or elemental fingerprint, and no two are alike. Elements present in a person’s cremated remains can include strontium, chromium, manganese, nickel, cobalt, iron, etc. and the amount of each depends on a person’s diet, unique habits throughout their life, and environment, among other factors. These elements are absorbed by a person’s skeletal system leaving a distinct one-of-a-kind elemental fingerprint that is present in their cremated remains.
Until recently, memorial options for people who chose cremation mainly consisted of placing a wood box on the mantle, or spreading ash from a tin can. However, as cremation has grown in popularity over the past few decades, more and more memorial options have become available. Now, you can grow into a beautiful tree of choice with The Living Urn, be buried in an attractive bamboo biodegradable burial urn with Eco Burial, be scattered at that favorite place with Eco Scattering, turn into a diamond, be part of a firework, and even be included in an artificial reef at sea. With so many options available, a truly unique memorial can be created that represents the beauty of your loved one and the life they lived.