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Cremation questions and answers

How many people use cremation?

Approximately 70% of bereaved families choose cremation as opposed to burial.

Are there any religious groups which forbid cremation?

Yes. Today all Christian denominations, including the Roman Catholic Church, allow cremation but it is forbidden by Orthodox Jews and Muslims. It is the normal method for Sikhs, Hindus, Parsees and Buddhists.

Is cremation dearer than burial?

No. Generally the cost of a grave is higher than the fee charged for cremation. The funeral director's charges are much the same for both services. The only additional charge for cremation arises for fees to two doctors for the necessary certificates. This does not apply to burial. With cremation there are no later costs for headstones etc, which arise with burial.

What religious ceremony can I have with cremation?

The service for burial and cremation is the same apart from the form of committal sentences and the service may take place in one's own church or chapel with a short committal service in the crematorium chapel or the whole service may be conducted in the crematorium chapel. You may arrange for your own minister to conduct the service. The form of service should be arranged with the minister and, if hymns are to be sung at the crematorium, the organist there should be advised in advance.

Must there be any religious ceremony with cremation?

No, this is not obligatory. A civic ceremony can be conducted or there may be none at all. On occasions a memorial service is conducted separately from the cremation ceremony.

How is a cremation arranged?

Normally families contact a funeral director and advise him that they wish to arrange a cremation. Discuss with him how soon you wish the cremation to take place, whom you wish to officiate at the service and the form of service. The funeral director will then do all that is needed to procure the necessary forms for the cremation and book the cremation at the crematorium. You will need to sign the Statutory Form A if you are the next of kin or executor, or are authorised to by either of them. The death will have to be registered and you will be advised how to do this.

Some families choose not to use a funeral director and make all the arrangements themselves, including the cremation service. If you decide this is what you would like to do, then contact the Crematorium Office on (01234) 718150 and they will advise you.

Do I have to sign anything else at this stage?

You will probably be asked how you wish to dispose of the cremation ashes. If you know what you want at this stage you will be asked to sign an authority for the crematorium to carry out your wishes. If you are undecided DO NOT sign any authority. The crematorium will keep the cremated remains until you have made a decision, or the funeral director can collect them and keep them at their premises. The crematorium does not have a time limit for keeping the remains (but will probably contact you if no decision has been made after 2/3 months) but you will need to check with the funeral director as they may have a time limit.

What can happen to the cremation ashes then?

At Bedford Crematorium there is a Garden of Remembrance and there are a number of various options for the dispersal of cremated remains and type of memorial. It is advisable to contact the Crematorium office to discuss these options with a member of staff (Tel: 01234 718150).

Can I visit the Garden of Remembrance before making a decision?

Yes. The office at Norse Road is open Monday to Friday between 9am to 4:30pm and the staff would be happy to discuss the various options and show you around the Garden of Remembrance.

What happens at the crematorium on the day of the funeral?

The coffin is usually brought into the chapel followed by the mourners. While the coffin is being placed on the catafalque the mourners take their seats and the service begins. At the moment when the committal takes place curtains will draw around the coffin, unless otherwise requested by the family. The coffin will then be taken off the catafalque and placed in the committal room. The family and mourners are then led to the Wreath Court where the floral tributes will be displayed

What happens to the coffin after the committal?

In the committal room the nameplate is checked with the cremation order to ensure the correct identity. The coffin is then labelled with a card prepared by the crematorium giving all the relevant details. This card will stay with the body from now until the final disposal of the cremation ashes.

Does the cremation take place immediately or are the coffins stored until a number are ready to be cremated?

At Bedford Crematorium the cremation takes place immediately after the service. The Code of Cremation Practice, which is adhered to by members of the Federation of British Cremation Authorities, requires that the cremation shall take place on the same day as the cremation service, or within 24 hours with the applicants written consent. Bedford Crematorium is a member.

Is the coffin cremated with the body?

Yes, the Code of Practice requires that nothing must be removed from the coffin after it has been received from the Chapel and it must be placed into the cremator exactly as received.

What happens to the handles and other coffin fittings?

Crematorium regulations require that all fittings shall be of combustible material and normally the handles and nameplate are made of hard plastic. Ferrous nails and screws do not burn and stay with the ashes until they are withdrawn from the cremator. They are then subjected to a magnetic field which removes them from the ashes.

What about precious metals and other materials?

The temperature at which a cremator operates (between 800C and 1000C) is such that metals are fused with other material so that they are not recognisable. The Code of Practice states that any metallic material resulting from a cremation should be disposed of in accordance with the instructions of the crematorium authority and recommends that this should be done by burial at depth within the crematorium grounds.

What would you recommend to people about leaving jewellery on a body?

The best advice is to remove all jewellery after death, unless it is intended that it should be cremated. Once the coffin is placed in the Chapel there is no way of recovering such items.

Is there more than one coffin cremated at one time in a cremator?

No. The only exceptions permitted to this rule are in the case of a mother and baby, or twin children, when the next of kin request that they be cremated together

Can relatives witness the committal of the coffin to the cremator?

Yes, but you should advise the funeral director and crematorium office of your wishes.

How do I know I shall get the right cremation ashes?

As previously explained, each coffin is identified on arrival and the identity card is placed on the outside of the cremator as soon as the coffin is placed in it. The card stays there until the ashes are removed and it is transferred to the cooling tray. The ashes then go into the preparation room and the card stays with them, finally being attached to the container into which the cremation ashes are placed. As each cremator is only big enough for one coffin and the ashes must be withdrawn before the cremator is used again, all cremation ashes are kept separate throughout the process. The size of the cremator chamber is about 7ft long by 2ft 6in wide by 2ft 3in high.

Preparation of the ashes has been mentioned. What does this entail ?

When the cremation is complete the cremation ashes are removed from the cremator into a cooling tray. When cool the ferrous material is removed by means of a magnetic field. The remaining ashes are then placed into a machine which reduces the remains to a fine white ash. All non-ferrous metals are cleared and disposed of in accordance with the Code of Practice.

Can I keep the cremation ashes if I want to or must I dispose of them?

The applicant may do what he/she wishes with the ashes and may keep them if desired.

How can I ensure that I am cremated when I die?

You should leave clear written instructions either in your will or with the person who will be responsible for arranging the funeral.

If I want to know more about cremation and perhaps inspect the crematorium how should I go about it?

You can telephone and visit the crematorium and discuss the matter with the staff there, who will be pleased to answer your questions and conduct you through the crematorium to see how it is operated.

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