I have always had questions that I was wary of asking about funerals. There are always stories that you hear doing the rounds, so I wanted to get to the bottom of these, and answer the questions that I have pondered for so long too. Knowing the answers has made me realise that there really are so many myths out there. So here goes...
Do the Funeral Directors treat the deceased with care?
This one is so easy to answer. Absolutely, yes. Funeral Directors are people who care, they wouldn't do the job otherwise. Yes they do have a banter now and again, but are always respectful around the deceased.
Is there a chance that the wrong body is in the coffin?
No. There is a really strict system in place to ensure this isn't the case.
Following on from this these all link together....
Is the body removed from the coffin to be burnt?
How can I be sure the ashes are those of the deceased?
Is the body cremated straight away?
Once the body is placed in the coffin at the Funeral Directors, it stays in the coffin. The coffin has to bear the name of the person inside it. So no, the body is not removed, the coffin enters the furnace with the body inside.
I have never seen a more meticulous system for ensuring that the coffin/body/ashes are traced throughout the process in the Crematorium. Everything is highly organised, and set out, to ensure that the ashes are absolutely those of the deceased.
It takes ninety minutes from start to finish to cremate a body. As the ceremony is usually between 30 and 45 minutes, this means that the body is not cremated immediately unless it is the first one of the day. Crematoriums do have permission to store bodies overnight but generally all those who have had ceremonies during the day are cremated before the staff finish. In some cultures the men witness the cremation. In this case special arrangements are made for this to take place immediately after the ceremony.
How much do the ashes weigh?
The ashes roughly weigh the same as the birth weight of the deceased.
If the coffin goes through a hole in the wall or into the ground isn't it going straight into the furnace?
No! As already mentioned, there is a delay during the day. The coffin is rolled onto a trolley, where it will remain until it rolls from the trolley into the furnace. If the crematorium needs to store the body overnight then they have a special store where the coffin is held securely. Once the pall bearers have placed the coffin on the catafalque it is not carried again.
Do you have to hold the ceremony at the crematorium?
Absolutely not. You can hold the ceremony wherever you want. Why not hold it in your village hall, local golf club or in your garden?
Do I have to have a ceremony?
Of course not. There are no rules. If you don't want a ceremony then you don't have to have one.
If I have a ceremony elsewhere what happens about taking the coffin to the crematorium?
Exactly the same as happens when a service is held in a Church. Either everyone can go to the crematorium, just close family or just the celebrant/clergy. The choice is entirely yours.
If I use a Celebrant does this mean we can't have hymns and prayers?
Not at all. A Celebrant is there to deliver the ceremony on your behalf. Unlike the Clergy, who have a set service that aims to send the body/soul from earth to heaven, the Celebrant is purely led by you and your wishes. You can include hymns and prayers, or not, as you wish.
Do we have to use a traditional hearse?
The choice of transport is entirely up to you. There is a huge variety of different hearses available from a motorbike sidecar to a VW van or a Landrover. If you want something different then talk this through with your Funeral Director, they are more than happy to source whatever you require.
Do we have to follow in a limousine?
No. You can arrive under your own steam at the crematorium/village hall etc. If you wish to follow the hearse then you can do so in your own vehicles. I would just say at this point though that you need to think about the driver, and whether they will be able to cope with the drive.
How soon can I collect the ashes?
They are usually ready the next day. Your Funeral Director will collect them on your behalf if you wish. They will hold them for you until you are ready to collect them.
Do I have to scatter the ashes?
No you don't. You can do what most people do and keep them in the wardrobe or on the mantelpiece or you can choose an alternative way of releasing them, such as in a firework. I will be doing a further blog on this subject shortly as there are lots of options out there!