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Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Cremation 101 (this is NOT a Do-It-Yourself Tutorial)

This is supposed to be my 'halloween post' but I had to ask my Mom's permission first to publish the pictures, hence the 2-day delay.

Cremation is now becoming a practical choice as to how our dearly departed ones are to be put to their final resting place. However, despite its growing popularity, a lot of old folks still frown at the idea of having their dead love ones "burned to ashes". I was one of those old folks.

When my Mom told me that she will have my Dad cremated, I almost choked. The scene of my beloved father being engulfed in flames was too much for me to grasp at that time. My Mom said it was my Dad's wish but I had a lot of questions. For one, Mommy has purchased several burial plots and memorial plans years ago, not a space in a columbary.

Anyway, my dad was cremated at Sanctuarium (where we also held his wake). The staff was very well trained in dealing with the bereaved family and answered all my questions politely. They explained every detail of the process and allowed us to witness the 'behind the scenes'.

Here is how a body is cremated:

1. The body is put on a 'tray' that would easily slide into the cremation chamber or cremator (the furnace).

2. The immediate family are called into the crematorium to see and bid farewell to their loved one for the last time. Any personal things that the family wants to be burned together with the body may be put at this time.

3. Once the body is inside the cremator, it will be closed and the 'burning' will begin. The heat will be so high that the flesh and organs of the body will vaporize and oxidize. Only the bone fragments will remain.

4. After an hour or so, the chamber will be opened to check how thorough the cremation process has been going (it all depends on the size and weight of the body)

I remember the staff getting a rake to mix the bone fragments before putting them back into the chamber.

5. After another hour, the chamber will be opened again. The 'tray' will then be removed to allow the bone fragments to cool. This is called the cooling period.

Note: For Chinese families, the cooling period is also the time when the cremation staff goes through the bone fragments to look for colored bones. They are said to signify the good deeds done when the person was still alive. It is very rare that they find colored bones and when they do, the family normally keeps them for good luck and prosperity in business.

My dad's colored bones. Sign of how good a man he was....

6. After the cooling period, metal fragments and other non combustible materials not burned during the process will be removed. Then the bone fragments will be gathered off the tray and transferred into a grinder.

As the staff was setting the grinder, he explained that it is incorrect to call the cremated remains as "ashes" because there are actually no ashes, but only bone fragments. The better term is cremains.


The bone fragments before grinding

7. After grinding, the sand-like cremains are transferred into a zip lock bag (maybe this is unique for Sanctuarium) before weighing.

Average weight of cremated remains is about 3 kilograms.

my dad's cremains weigh 2.4kg

8. The zip lock bag is put again into another bag (we bought a velvet one) before it is placed in an urn. The Urn will be closed tightly and sealed by glue gun.

preparing to seal

Sealed for good!

That's how a body is cremated.

Did it clear up any misinformation you have on cremation? Can you now say f%*# to all those movies that show the 'ashes' scattered on the floor after an urn falls and breaks into pieces?

Do you want to be cremated?

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