Whether at the time of death or in advance, you have many options when arranging for cremation.
CANA’s Code of Cremation Practice states that “cremation should be considered as preparation for memorialization; and, that the dead of our society should be memorialized through a commemorative means suitable to the survivors.” This means that though cremation is unstoppable and irreversible, it isn’t the end, but rather the beginning of the memorial process.
“Just cremate me” should not be the sum total of your final wishes and plans. Your friends, family members and colleagues will want an opportunity to gather and remember you. They can also benefit from a specific final resting place to visit, remember and mourn.
One reason cremation has gained popularity in recent decades is the flexibility of location, ceremony, and time it affords families and the opportunity it provides to honor the deceased in a more creative way. No longer tied to a specific schedule or ritual, the service and placement can reflect the uniqueness of the individual and can be performed when the family is ready.
Here are some guidelines to help organize your decision-making:
Decision One: What kind of cremation services do I want?
- Cremation with a ceremony/service before or afterward
- Cremation with viewing/identification
- DIY – direct cremation with no additional services
Decision Two: What do I do with cremated remains.
- Permanent Placement
- Unique and Personal
- Do nothing now
Decision Three: Planning and Payment
- Pre-arrange and pre-fund with a provider
- Pre-arrange and tell loved ones
- Do nothing now
Decision Four: Choosing your provider
- What type of provider do I need?
- What firm should I choose?
Avoid Regret: Don’t Do Nothing
Cremation provides opportunity for creativity and a memorial as unique as the life lived. The only recommendation CANA makes is don't do nothing. Urns can be removed from niches or disinterred from plots to make keepsakes. Remains that were scattered remotely can be memorialized at the cemetery or other location for future visits. Understand your options so you won’t make the wrong choice for your loved ones.
Estimates are that over two million sets of cremated remains are abandoned at the crematory, in limbo on the closet shelf at home, or tucked away in a storage locker, only to show up for sale at a flea market or a resale shop. While a funeral home or crematory will have policies in place about storing cremated remains—the remains in their care definitely won’t show up at a secondhand store—too often a family won’t make a decision about the cremated remains of a loved one and the container will be handed down until it is unrecognizable and forgotten. This is how they end up at a garage sale—or even the landfill.
But cremation means that a decision can be made at any time, even if the person died years or decades ago. It’s never too late to find a place to memorialize family. If you come across unidentified cremated remains, contact a local funeral home or crematory. They can help you find the unique identification number and you may be able to discover who it is.
Lastly, for truly unique choices, talk to your funeral director or crematory manager about the feasibility or safety of the what you are considering. We don’t recommend eating cremated remains.