All About Cremation | Cremation Society of St. Louis

Cremation FAQ

We've put together some of the most common questions we hear about the cremation process, arranging for a cremation, and the nature of cremation memorialization services. If you don't find your question here, that's not a problem. Just call us at Cremation Society of St. Louis, LLC. One of our cremation specialists will be delighted to speak with you.

  • Do I need a Durable Power of Attorney?
    Missouri law allows individuals to designate another person to make medical decisions for them if they are unable to speak for themselves. This is done by completing a durable power of attorney form. Everyone should have a DPA completed, to protect their interests in the event of life-threatening medical complications.

  • What is the Missouri Law related to the "Right of Sepulcher"?
    This law gives you more control over what is done with your body after your death. The authority to make this decision is known in legalese as "right of sepulcher." We have written before about the importance of naming a durable power of attorney (DPA). A DPA, or agent, is someone you name in a legal document to make medical decisions for you if can't speak for yourself. Under this state law, the DPA has one additional power: right of sepulcher.

    In the past, next-of-kin had the final say on this issue. So, in the past, if you chose cremation, your family could overrule you and your DPA and choose something else. But now your DPA will have the final say - so be sure to tell your DPA what you want.

  • What happens during the cremation process?
    The casket or container is placed in the cremation chamber, where the temperature is raised to approximately 1400 degrees to 1800 degrees Fahrenheit. After approximately 2 to 2 1/2 hours, all organic matter is consumed by heat or evaporation. The remaining bone fragments are known as cremated remains. The cremated remains are then carefully removed from the cremation chamber. Any metal is removed with a magnet and later disposed of in an approved manner. The cremated remains are then processed into fine particles and are placed in a temporary container provided by the crematory or placed in an urn purchased by the family. The entire process takes approximately three hours. Throughout the cremation process, a carefully controlled labeling system ensures correct identification.

  • How long will the cremation take?
    Cremating at the optimum temperature (1400-1800 degrees), the average weighted remains takes 2 to 2 1/2 hours. However, several more hours may be required before the cremated remains are available to the family.

  • Are cremations done individually?
    Yes. State law generally provides that only one body may be cremated at a time. However, in some states, the remains of family members may be cremated together with the consent of the next-of-kin.

  • Do most people choose cremation only to save money?
    While some people select cremation for economy, many choose this option for other reasons. The simplicity and dignity of cremation, environmental concerns, and the flexibility cremation affords in ceremony planning and final disposition all add to its increasing popularity.

  • When can the cremation take place?
    Because cremation is an irreversible process and because the process itself will eliminate any ability to determine exact cause of death, many states require that each cremation be authorized by the coroner or medical examiner. Some states have specific minimum time limits that must elapse before cremation may take place. Your local funeral service provider can advise you of applicable regulations, if any.

  • What preparation of the body is required prior to cremation?
    It is essential that pacemakers and other medical devices be removed prior to cremation. They may explode when subjected to high temperature, which can be hazardous to crematory staff and equipment. In addition, any special mementos, such as jewelry, will be destroyed during the cremation process. That's why we recommend that anything you wish to keep should be removed by the funeral director or crematory operator prior to the cremation.

  • What will be returned to me?
    Many people call what remains after a cremation, “ashes”; however that's somewhat incorrect. Think of cremation as a two-step process. First, the body is exposed to several hours of intense heat and flame; after which the remains are mostly ash except for certain bone fragments. This is then gathered and run through a processor, creating a uniform powder-like material; which we call "cremains."

  • Why is it necessary to refrigerate the remains?
    Since cremation is an irreversible process, many states require a waiting period before the actual process may begin. And always there must be a signed death certificate, as well as other related paperwork, completed prior to the cremation. Unless a body is embalmed, refrigeration is the only alternative available that will retard tissue decomposition.

  • Is embalming necessary for cremation?
    No. In most cases, it is your choice. It may depend on such factors as whether the family selected a service with a public viewing of the body, whether there is to be a funeral service, or whether there is refrigeration available. Embalming may also be necessary if the body is going to be transported by air or rail, or because of the length of time prior to the cremation.

  • Is a casket required?
    No. However, a crematory requires that the deceased be cremated in a combustible, leak proof, rigid, covered container. This does not need to be a casket as such. What is required is an enclosed, rigid, container made of wood or other combustible material to allow for the dignified handling of human remains.

  • Are there special cremation caskets?
    Yes. Cremation caskets and containers are available in a wide variety of materials ranging from simple cardboard containers to beautifully handcrafted oak, maple or mahogany caskets.

  • Can a casket be rented instead of purchased when choosing cremation?
    There are hardwood ceremonial caskets for viewing or funeral services prior to cremation. The ceremonial (or rental) casket is specifically designed to provide a very aesthetically pleasing, affordable and environmentally prudent alternative to purchasing a casket for a cremation service.

  • Can I provide my own urn?
    Of course! But we suggest that you discuss this situation with one of our Cremation Specialists prior to the cremation. This is because the size of your urn will be of great importance if you plan to have all of the cremated remains included in this container.

  • Can I watch the cremation?
    Most of the time, arrangements can be made through the funeral home or crematory for relatives or representatives of the deceased to witness the cremation. This can be a very important part of the emotional caring process for families, or it can be because of religious practice – but whatever the reason, your cremation provider should be willing to accommodate your needs.

  • Do all funeral homes and cemeteries have a crematory?
    No - actually only a small percentage of cremation service providers have their own cremation units.

  • How can I be sure that I'll receive the correct cremains?
    All reputable cremation providers have developed rigorous sets of operating policies and procedures in order to maximize the level of service and minimize the potential for human error. If you have questions, ask the cremation providers what procedures they use.

  • Is cremation a substitution for a funeral?
    No, cremation is simply a method of preparing human remains for final disposition. We always urge families to have some ceremony of remembrance to honor their loved one; however, the decision is always yours.

  • Do I have to have a service?
    There are no hard and fast rules about this issue. However, memorialization is a time-honored tradition that has been practiced for centuries. It is a tribute to a life lived and provides a focal point for remembrance.

    One of the advantages of cremation is that it provides you with increased flexibility when you make your funeral and cemetery arrangements. You might, for example, choose to have a funeral service before the cremation; a memorial service at the time of cremation or after the cremation with the urn present; or a committal service at the final disposition of cremated remains. Your Cremation Specialist can help you come to the decision about what ceremonial arrangements are right for your family.

  • What should I do with the cremated remains?
    The cremains can be interred in a cemetery plot, retained by a family member in an urn, or scattered. This scattering can take place on private property, or at a place that was significant to the deceased.

    Cremation is just one step in the commemorative process—the preparation of the human remains . Today, there are many different types of memorial service options from which to choose. A memorial serves as a tribute to a life lived and provides a focal point for remembrance. Today, there are many different types of memorial service options from which to choose. The type of memorial ceremony you choose is a personal decision. The limit is set only by your imagination.

  • Can I scatter the remains on private property?
    Yes, but only with permission of the owner. And we advise getting that permission in writing, and having it notarized.

  • With cremation, do I need a monument or permanent memorial?
    You might choose ground burial of the urn. If so, you may usually choose either a bronze memorial or monument. Also available at many cemeteries are cremation niches in columbariums. They offer the beauty of a mausoleum setting with the benefits of above ground placement of remains. Many cemeteries also offer scattering gardens. This area of a cemetery offers the peacefulness of a serene garden where family and friends can come and reflect.

  • What is a columbarium?
    A columbarium, often located within a mausoleum or chapel, sometimes free-standing, either indoor or outdoor, is constructed of numerous small compartments (niches) designed to hold urns containing cremated remains.

  • Why would I want my remains to be placed in a columbarium, or interred at the cemetery?
    We've seen situations where the scattering of ashes presents families with emotional challenges. Some people may find it hard to simply pour the mortal remains of a loved one out onto the ground or into the sea. If you wish to be scattered somewhere, it is therefore important to discuss your wishes ahead of time with the person or persons who will actually have to do the scattering. Another difficulty with scattering can occur when the remains are disposed of in an anonymous, unmarked or public place.

    Lots of things can make it difficult for your survivors to visit the site to remember you. This could be restriction of access, or development of the property; two situations that are fairly common in urban areas. Even if your cremated remains are scattered in your backyard, what happens if your survivors sell the house.

    And honestly, once scattered, cremated remains cannot easily be collected back up. Having your remains placed, interred or scattered on a cemetery's grounds ensures that future generations will have a place to go to remember. If remains are scattered somewhere outside the cemetery, many cemeteries will allow you to place a memorial of some type on the cemetery grounds, so survivors have a place to visit that will always be maintained and preserved.

  • Why is having a place to visit so important?
    It's simple, because it provides a focal point for memorializing the deceased. Throughout human history, memorialization of the dead has been a key component of almost every culture. Providing a permanent resting place for the deceased is a dignified treatment for a loved one's mortal remains, which fulfills the natural human desire for memorialization.

  • If I am cremated, can I be buried with my spouse even if he or she was in a casket?
    Yes - however, it's dependent upon the cemetery's policy. Often, you may be able to save a grave space by having the cremains buried on top of the casketed remains of your spouse, or utilize the space provided next to him/her. Many cemeteries allow for multiple cremated remains to be interred in a single grave space.

  • Can I take the cremated remains home?
    Yes. The remains are returned to you in a temporary plastic container, unless you select a more decorative urn at the time of the cremation arrangement. If you don't, and you find an urn at a later point in time, your Cremation Specialist will be happy to transfer the cremated remains for you, from the temporary plastic container to the urn of your choosing.

  • Do all religions permit cremation?
    Some religions prefer cremation; some do not recommend the practice; most permit you to choose. Should you have any questions or concerns, we suggest you speak with a member of your clergy, or contact one of our Cremation Specialists to discuss your faith-based options.

  • What is direct cremation?
    A direct cremation is just that...a direct cremation. There are no services with the body present prior to the cremation, the body is not prepared in any way, and an alternative container is used instead of a casket.

  • Can I buy an urn or a casket online?
    Yes you can, but we ask that you be very cautious as inferior merchandise is working its way into the merchandise stream that is manufactured in China and Mexico. Does quality matter when discussing items that will be used for the dead? When you buy merchandise from a funeral home, what you see is what you get and the funeral director will guarantee the quality of the item he/she is selling.

  • What is embalming?
    Embalming is the temporary preservation of the dead for funeral purposes. Bodily fluids are drained and replaced with chemical preservatives and the face, neck and hands are restored to make the decedent appear as natural as possible. A well-embalmed body that was prepared by a licensed funeral director of high skill can remain preserved anywhere from days to many years. For the record, although we refer to the mummies of Egypt as being embalmed, the procedure used was more akin to taxidermy than modern funeral embalming.

  • Can I ship the ashes via the postal service or other parcel carrier?
    Only the post office will transport cremated remains via their parcel post service.

  • Who can authorize a cremation?
    This answer to this question depends on where you live. Usually the immediate next-of-kin (a spouse for example) will make the necessary arrangements and pay for the services. If the spouse is deceased, then the children would step forward. In some jurisdictions, a cousin or even a friend can make cremation and final disposition arrangements. Check with one of our Cremation Specialists to learn more about the proper (and legal) answer to this question for your family situation.

  • Will a funeral home quote prices over the telephone?
    Funeral and cremation providers must quote their prices over the telephone and in person to fully comply with the Funeral Rule established and enforced by the Federal Trade Commission. Additionally, before discussing funeral/cremation products and/or services, a provider must make a printed General Price List available for your review and your retention. A laminated General Price List that is quickly handed to you and retrieved after the arrangement violates the Funeral Rule and the funeral/cremation provider is subject to a $10,000.00 penalty for non-compliance.

  • What about donating my body to science?
    We are often asked if body donation is the least expensive option to dispose of a body after death. While we can answer 'yes,' we always advise families to ask two questions prior to signing the papers: 
    1) What will they use the body for?

    2) After your body has been used by the institution, will they handle the cremation and disposal of your cremated remains or will they contact your family for them to make those arrangements?