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Decomposition of the body in the earth (after burial) is the slow oxidation of the body tissues.

Cremation, on the other hand, provides rapid oxidation, by the application of heat.

No casket is legally required for cremation, just a simple container, which is strong enough to hold the body. This could be a box of rough boards, pressboard, or heavy cardboard.

Some crematories accept metal caskets; most require the container to be combustible.

Cremation Choices

If the body is cremated ...

1. The cremated remains can be kept by the family — and perhaps memorialized — in an urn or other container.

2. The cremated remains can be placed in a niche within a cemetery.

3. The cremated remains can be buried in the ground in a regular plot or in a smaller cremation plot, or together with a pre-deceased relative.

Why people choose cremation

In the United States, in 1972, only five percent chose cremation. That number has increased steadily, but burials still far outnumber cremations.

Those who choose cremation (for themselves or others) often hold the belief that it is better to honor the memory of the person, not the dead body.

Here are some other reasons you might choose cremation:

Cremation is traditional in your family, religious group, or geographical area

You prefer the body to be returned quickly and cleanly to the elements

Many people believe that a cremated body becomes one with nature more quickly.

You have environmental concerns

Perhaps you are worried about the use of valuable land for cemetery space, or believe it is wrong to fill the ground with materials that won't erode ... metal coffins and concrete vaults.

You want to keep the costs down

Selecting cremation does not mean, however, that you will have an inexpensive funeral.

You might still choose an expensive casket and/or a viewing, and/or decide to have the cremated remains buried in the ground or placed in a niche. These choices can bring your costs up to those of a traditional funeral.

Decisions You Must Make If You Choose Cremation
• Do you want to have a funeral service with the body present prior to the cremation?
• Do you wish to have a memorial service after the body has been cremated?
• What to do with the cremated remains.

If you are distributing the cremated remains....

Some jurisdictions have laws prohibiting the scattering of cremated remains; others require a permit. Ask your funeral director.

Also ask if there are any firms in your area that specialize in unique ways of scattering the cremated remains, such as a plane to spread them over a mountain, or a ship to scatter them at sea.

Think of places that were especially loved by the deceased, close to home or far away. Be sure to ask permission if you want to use private property.

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