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What happens during cremation

Cremation is an increasingly popular choice for end-of-life disposition. It involves the transformation of a body into ashes through high-temperature combustion. While there are different cremation services available, in this article we’ll go over exactly what happens during the cremation process.

The Cremation Process

The cremation of a human body takes between an hour and a half to two hours. Cremation is conducted in a specially designed furnace known as a retort. The body, placed within a cremation container or casket, is carefully positioned inside the retort. It is crucial to ensure that any jewelry or personal items that the deceased wished to keep are removed beforehand.

The retort is typically fueled by natural gas or propane and preheated to temperatures ranging from 1,400 to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit (760 to 1,093 degrees Celsius). Once the optimal temperature is achieved, the cremation process begins. The body undergoes several stages during cremation. Initially, the heat desiccates the body, removing all moisture, and vaporizing organic compounds. Then, the body enters the primary combustion chamber, where the intense heat causes it to undergo pyrolysis, a process where the organic matter is broken down into carbon dioxide and other gases. As this stage progresses, the body’s soft tissues, skin, and muscles are consumed by the heat, leaving only the skeletal structure behind. The remains then undergo a cooling period before they can be handled further.

Once cooled, the bone fragments remaining after the combustion stage are then transferred to a separate chamber called a processor. The processor uses intense mechanical force to reduce the bone fragments into a fine powder known as cremains or ashes. These ashes are collected in an urn and returned to the family.

What to know when considering cremation.

Cremation is often considered a more environmentally friendly option than burial, though it still raises concerns about its carbon footprint. The energy-intensive process and the release of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases contribute to carbon emissions. As a result, some crematoriums have adopted more sustainable practices, such as utilizing energy-efficient cremators, carbon offset programs, and offering eco-friendly urns made from biodegradable materials.

Cremation is widely accepted across various cultures and religions, though specific practices and beliefs may vary. Hinduism, for instance, embraces cremation as it is believed to release the soul from the body, allowing it to embark on its spiritual journey. In contrast, Christianity traditionally favored burial, but attitudes have shifted, and many Christian denominations now permit cremation as well.

Because cremation foregoes many services involved with a traditional burial, it is a more affordable solution that offers greater flexibility when making funeral arrangements. 

Cremation is a deeply personal and increasingly chosen method of disposition, offering an alternative to traditional burial. Understanding the cremation process can help individuals make informed decisions regarding end-of-life arrangements, fostering a sense of peace and closure.

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Florida law states “A cremation may not be performed until a legally authorized person gives written authorization for such cremation,” (FS 497.607).  Furthermore, the law defines whom the “legally authorized person” is and sets up the order of priority of next of kin. We require a written authorization before scheduling any cremation or funeral services. The “Authorization for Cremation and Disposition” form must be signed by the next of kin in the following order: spouse, son or daughter (of legal age), parent, brother or sister, grandchild, grandparent.

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