Cremation is one of three methods for end-of-life services when deciding what to do with the remains of a loved one who has passed on. One of the most common methods is burial. Part of burial involves putting the body through a chemical process called embalming that slows the natural deterioration of organic material and prevents the body from decomposing at the normal rate.
The embalming process, like most end-of-life services, serves a very specific purpose in that it allows the family to display the remains of a loved one through a wake or funeral service. This method also involves the price of a casket in which the body is stored for the burial service.
Another end-of-life service that a person can choose is to have their remains donated to science. This is a choice that can represent a certain amount of sacrifice on behalf of the surviving friends and family. For someone who donates their body to science, their remains will not be traditionally disposed of but instead immediately given over to research. This is a powerful way to leave a legacy and to help the scientific community further its knowledge and research in how to serve humanity.
Cremation is a very popular option for an end-of-life service that involves the reduction of a person’s bodily remains down to what is commonly referred to as ‘ash.’ This is accomplished in a very specific kind of furnace called a retort. The common conception is that the cremation process reduces the remains of a human body to ashes but that is not entirely correct.
What exactly happens to the remains of a body when they are exposed to the process of cremation and what do you need to know about human ashes after cremation?
The Choice of Cremation
Before getting into the technical aspects of what cremation is and what you need to know about the process, the question of why cremation would be chosen needs to be answered. When burial is still the most common option for end-of-life services, why would someone opt for a cremation service?
The history of cremation actually stretches back as far as any other form of end-of-life service. This ancient practice has had a place in cultures through the millennia and there have been religious and cultural reasons associated with it. Some religions like Judaism and Islam actually prohibit the cremation of the deceased.
The Expense of Cremation
One popular reason why cremation is an attractive reason to certain individuals is that a cremation service has potential to be more cost-effective. There are actually three common kinds of cremation services that a person can choose from and each represents a different financial impact.
The most expensive form of cremation is what is known as traditional cremation. This is where a family chooses to have their loved one’s remains cremated, however they hold all the traditional services of an earthen burial. This includes both the cost of embalming and purchasing a casket as the body will be displayed as if it were a traditional earthen burial.
The second option is that of a memorial cremation. This method holds the traditional services of a wake, funeral service, and even a graveside service, but it bypasses the costs of a casket and embalming. In this service, the body is immediately taken to be cremated and the remains are typically stored in a commemorative urn at the services along with photographs of the departed.
The third option is the most cost-effective and it is called direct cremation. This service involves the body being directly cremated after death with no additional services or fees. The remains of the deceased are processed and returned to the surviving family. Within this service, a decorative urn or some kind of ceremonial spreading of the ashes is typically what the family opts to do in memory of their loved one.
The Process of Cremation: Not Actually Ashes
When a person thinks of ashes, they typically will imagine some kind of object being broken down by open flames and reduced to a familiar gray, flaky substance. For most carbon based structures, being reduced to ashes looks similar. The most common mental picture of ashes would be that of an open flame reducing firewood.
The truth about cremation is that this is not what actually happens with the human body. The body is placed in a very special container designed for cremation that is then placed in a specialized furnace. While the furnace uses flames to reach extreme temperatures, the remains are never directly exposed to flame.
Most of the Body Turns to Gas
Because the human body is mostly composed of water, the result of exposure to such high temperatures is the evaporation and sublimation of the human tissue to gasses. In fact, nearly 60% of the human body is composed primarily of water. This translates to a large part of the human body that reduces to gas form through the process of cremation.
A Small Amount of Ash
Another aspect of cremation that may be surprising to some is the fact that after cremation there is a small amount of remains. The average human body will produce four to six pounds of human ash as a result of cremation. This is largely due to the fact that so much of the human body turns to gas.
Here is where a lot of misconceptions about cremation typically reside. When a human body undergoes cremation, the results are not what are commonly considered ash. The remains of the human body that do not turn to gas come primarily from the parts of the body that are denser, primarily the bone structures.
Bones actually make up almost all of what remains after cremation. In cremation, these remains are then submitted to a purification process. This helps to break down the bones into a fine dust-like substance.
Unique Options for Cremated Remains
When a person is cremated, the question has to be answered: what do you do with the remains? The most popular answer to this question is to place them in a decorative and commemorative urn. These urns can be custom designed and uniquely fitted to be a memorial to your loved one. Not only that but they range in price and can be as expensive or economical as you desire.
It is not uncommon for a person to place their loved one’s ashes within their own homes. This keeps their loved ones close and they can create a memorial display using photographs and other personal items of the loved one.
Another option is to actually have a graveside service where the ashes are either stored or scattered appropriately. This is a popular option that many cemeteries allow.
A third option that many people choose when it comes to commemorating their loved ones’ ashes is to scatter them in places that have a high sentimental value. This option is a deeply personal tribute to a loved one’s favorite locations or activities.
For instance, if the deceased had a favorite hiking location or was an avid outdoor sports participant, then finding a place in nature to scatter their ashes can be a beautiful tribute.
Commemorative Memorial Diamonds
One of the most unique and beautiful options for commemorating a loved one who has been cremated is to turn their ashes into a memorial diamond. This scientific process will take the ashen remains of a loved one and, using cutting-edge technology, restructure these ashes into a genuine, 100% real and IGI graded diamond.
Human ashes contain carbon atoms that are preserved largely due to the bones of the deceased. These carbon molecules are uniquely the deceased and can be rearranged to make a one of a kind diamond. This process involves taking the ashen remains of a loved one and placing them in a specialized device that mimics the Earth’s crust where diamonds are naturally formed. This device exposes the ashes to intense amounts of heat and pressure over a period of time.
Once the diamond is grown, it can be cut and polished to standard and is graded by IGI, one of the most respected diamond grades in the industry. This provides a unique, beautiful way of remembering your loved ones and keeping them in your family for generations.