More about Cremation

Frequently Asked Questions

Cremation is the technical heating process that reduces human remains to bone fragments. The reduction takes place through heat and evaporation.

Pre-arranging or pre-planning is always advisable when possible. Making arrangements ahead of time allows people to make their own decisions about cremation, ground burial or entombment. People are better able to evaluate the options available during a pre-planning stage than at the time of death when emotional stress is typically very high. Kentucky law requires that either a pre-authorization form has been signed by the person to which cremation is to be performed along with one signature by the next-of-kin at the time of death. Otherwise, it is required that all next-of-kin sign an authorization form for the cremation when a pre-approval has not been given.

A cremation service does not have to differ from the traditional service at all unless that is the family’s desire. The family can deviate as much or as little as they wish. A cremation service can include a visitation at a funeral home or church where the deceased is in a casket with cremation and memorialization to follow. Or, the family can choose direct cremation in which the deceased is taken from the place of death to the funeral home for paperwork to be completed then directly to the crematory.

A casket for cremation itself is not required; however a cremation container is necessary. Kentucky cremation law requires that a body at least be enclosed in an acceptable rigid container. The container must be strong enough to assure the protection of the health and safety of the operator. If a family chooses to have visitation at the funeral home, it will be necessary to have a casket in which to place the body. Many funeral homes now have caskets available for rental due to the growing interest in cremation. Prior to taking the body to the crematory, the body is transferred into another container. Many funeral homes also offer special caskets designed specifically for cremation. These special caskets are attractive, yet they usually do not have the additional amenities found on caskets designed for ground burial or to be placed in a mausoleum.

There are basically four steps to complete the cremation process. The first step is to pre-heat the cremation chamber. Once the cremation chamber is heated, the encased body is placed into the chamber. After the cremation occurs there is a period of time which is allowed for the unit to cool down. It takes approximately 4-1/2 hours to complete the cremation process including pre-heating, cremation and cool-down. An additional 45 minutes is needed for the remains to be packaged. What do the remains look like? Many people believe that remains look like ash from a fireplace, however this belief is untrue. The remains do not have the chemical properties nor the physical appearance of ashes, they are in fact bone fragment. During the cremation process the water from the body, which makes up about 75% of body mass, is evaporated. Fragments of bone are all that remain. Typically the amount of remains can fit into a container similar in size to a three pound coffee can.

A person can wear jewelry during cremation; however, the family is advised in pre-approved forms that the jewelry will not be recognizable after the cremation process is complete. Many people feel that jewelry should remain with the person it belongs to even after death. Some families request that jewelry be removed prior to cremation then placed on top of the remains in the urn thereafter.

Regardless of how traditional the cremation service is, The Lexington Cemetery requires that any person who wishes to be cremated in The Lexington Crematory must be brought to the cemetery by a licensed funeral director. The funeral director is a trained professional who provides a very definite service for the family. The funeral director picks up the body at the place of death, provides proof of proper identification, completes all legal documentations prior to cremation and also assists the family in honoring the loved family member or friend.

Embalming is not necessary for cremation. However, if the family chooses a visitation with viewing, then more than likely embalming will be necessary to improve the appearance of the deceased individual.

Kentucky as a whole does not have many more people choosing to be cremated compared to twenty years ago. In fact, only about 5% of all bodies are cremated today compared to 4% percent in the early 70s. The percentage of people in Central Kentucky who choose cremation is somewhat higher, with 10% of all bodies being cremated. A person who lives in the western United States, New England, Florida, Alaska, Hawaii or Michigan is more likely to choose cremation than people in Kentucky. In fact, an estimated 61% of people in Alaska choose cremation. The United States cremation rate is estimated at 21%.

One of the best ways to tell family members is to simply state that you are pre-planning, and you have decided that you would like to be cremated. Family members may or may not object. If family members do object, you will have to be prepared to either change your mind about being cremated or attempt to educate them. Typically people object because they lack information about cremation. If this is the case it will be helpful to visit the Cemetery with family members to get an education on the subject. Family members may still object to your being cremated, but will probably be more likely to discuss the subject.

There are several medical conditions that need to be addressed prior to cremation. Pacemakers and medical infusion pumps must be removed because they are highly explosive. Also, a person who has been given radiation therapy for bone cancer in the past two months may not be able to be cremated because of the radioactivity still in the body. This same person can be cremated if radiation therapy has not occurred in two months. If there is a slight chance that radioactivity is still present in a person’s body but the body is still cremated, the cemetery director will still mark the cremated remains a potential hazard.

Under Kentucky Law, cremation within itself is final disposition. Both in terms of cremation and scattering, the process is irrevocable. It is recommended that the family find a place to memorialize the remains because it gives not only the current family and friends, but future generations a place to which they may visit and commemorate that individual.

There are several choices for memorialization of cremated remains. The family can select from a variety of urns for permanent containment. The urn may then be placed in a columbarium within a mausoleum, be buried in a regular lot or in an urn garden, or scattered in a scattering garden. Each of these choices allows for a memorial plaque with the name and dates of birth and death of the cremated person.

Some religious faiths object to cremation, while others virtually require it. If a person is concerned that cremation may or may not fit into their religious beliefs, it is best to contact a member of the clergy to make a determination.

The Commonwealth of Kentucky does not have stipulations regarding where remains can be scattered. Cemeteries are required by law to have a designated location, usually a scattering garden, for the purpose of scattering remains. It is advised that if the family wants to scatter the remains in a public place that they first get approval from the local governmental official who regulates that county or state. In addition, because some individuals are offended by the cremation process, it also is recommended that when scattering in public places that it is done in a secluded area. Because scattering the remains is irrevocable, if the deceased pre-arranged for a scattering location, or the family chooses to scatter in a public place, it may be of benefit to the family to only scatter a portion of the remains in the public location and place the other portion in a location at a cemetery or church where a memorial can be placed. The family can then go back to the memorial and visit, but also abide by the wishes of the deceased.

The cost can be comparable or can be considerably less expensive depending upon how traditional the family wishes to go with the services before and after the cremation. The cost is according to the wishes and traditions of the family.

Cremation Terminology

Cremation is the technical heating process that reduces human remains to bone fragments. This reduction takes place through heat and evaporation.

Cremation Chamber is the total mechanical unit for the actual cremation process which is specifically constructed to withstand high temperatures and yet protect the surrounding structure. Inside it is lined at the top, sides and bottom with a heavy refractory tile or brick, with a layer of insulation between the inside surface and the outside protective housing or casing.

Crematory or Crematorium is the building that houses the cremation chamber. It can be a building that serves this one function only or a multi-purpose building that also contains the administration offices, mortuary preparation rooms or cemetery maintenance facilities.

The Cremation Container is the case in which the human body is delivered to the crematory or crematorium to be placed in the cremation chamber for cremation. Although each crematory may set its own regulations, it is generally required that this container meet the following standards; (1) be composed of suitable combustible material, (2) be rigid enough for handling ease, (3) assure protection to the health and safety of the operator, (4) provide proper covering for the remains, and (5) meet moral codes for respect and dignity.

Memorialization is the placement of cremated remains according to the family’s choice and available facilities. It may be a niche in a columbarium with space for one, two or even an entire family. It may be interment in a single burial sight, an urn garden or family lot. Others may choose scattering in specifically prepared scattering gardens within cemetery grounds, with or without a marker or cenotaph for name plates. Some select their personal type of memorialization, such as a tree or rose bush planted in a special area.

An Urn is the receptacle into which the cremated remains are placed. The selection of urns varies in size, style and composition, and the final choice often depends on where the urn will eventually be located. Urns range in size from single to multiple capacity, and in style from a simple square or rectangle, to a symbolic book shape, to a traditional Grecian design and various other designs. They are composed of hand crafted solid cast bronze, bronze plate, sheet bronze or stainless steel, or marble or cultured marble and polished hardwoods or durable plastics, and pre-formed concrete for below ground placement.

Cremation Box is a utilitarian container in which cremated remains may be placed for transport or to await disposition at a later time. In some properties it is approved for use behind a closed front niche. They may be made of copper, tin alloy, plastic, cardboard or unfinished wood.

Niche is the recessed compartment or cubicle for placement of a cremation urn. The front is protected with an ornamental enclosure of glass, bronze, marble or granite. Many properties provide a common storage area or Community Niche where several cremation containers may be placed. It is generally located in a specific section of a columbarium or mausoleum and may or may not have name identification.

Columbarium is an arrangement of niches that may be an entire building, a complete room, a series of special indoor alcoves, a bank along a corridor or part of an outdoor garden setting. They are constructed of permanent materials such as bronze, marble, brick, stone or concrete.

An Urn Garden is an outdoor area specifically set aside at a cemetery, crematory or mausoleum for the burial under ground of cremated remains. The remains are generally in some kind of individual container, with name identification.

Scattering Garden is an area at a cemetery, crematory or mausoleum for the strewing of cremated remains in a common ground. Individual names may be identified on a unique garden feature. Scattering results in the comingling of remains, and scattered remains are unrecoverable.

Inurnment is when cremated remains are placed in an urn or container of any type as opposed to scattering. In modern usage it often means the placement of the urn in a specific location, such as a niche.

Cremated Remains are the remaining bone fragments after the cremation process is completed. They are not ashes as we understand this word in relation to home fireplaces and furnaces.

Pulverization is the process of reducing the size of the bone fragments after cremation by mechanical means.

Direct Cremation is when a human body is picked up from the place where death occurred and taken directly to the crematory to be cremated. Although there may be a later memorial service, there are no services with the body present.

SOURCE: Guide to Correct Crematory Procedures. Cremation Association of North America. 1980.

Tours & Events

Locate a Loved One

Contact Us