Questions About the Cremation Process

What is cremation?

To begin with, it is probably easier to describe what cremation isn't. Cremation is not final disposition of the remains, nor is it a type of funeral service. Rather, it is a process of reducing the human body to bone fragments using high heat and flame.

How long does the actual cremation take?

It depends on the weight of the individual and the cremation container or casket chosen. For an average size adult, cremation takes from two to three hours at normal operating temperature between 1,500 degrees F to 2,000 degrees F

What happens after the cremation is complete?

All organic bone fragments, which are very brittle, as well as non-consumed metal items are "swept" to the front of the cremation chamber and into a stainless steel cooling pan. All non-consumed items, like metal from clothing, hip joints, and bridge work, are separated from the cremated remains. This separation is accomplished through visual inspection as well as using a strong magnet for smaller and minute metallic objects. Items such as dental gold and silver are non-recoverable and are commingled with the cremated remains. Remaining bone fragments are then processed in a machine to a consistent size and placed into a temporary or permanent urn, selected by the family.

What do the cremated remains look like?

Cremated remains resemble coarse sand and are whitish to light grey in color. The remains of an average size adult usually weigh between four to eight pounds of cremated remains.

In what kind of container are the cremated remains returned?

The cremated remains are placed in an urn of your choice from our large selection of urns available for purchase.

Are all the cremated remains returned?

With the exception of minute and microscopic particles, which are impossible to remove from the cremation chamber and processing machine, all of the cremated remains are given back to the family.

What can be done with the cremated remains?

There are many options. Remains can be buried in a cemetery lot or cremation garden, inurned in a columbarium, kept at home, or scattered on private property. Our staff will be happy to discuss these options with you and make any arrangements.

Concerns About Cremation

Are there any laws governing cremation?

Cremation regulations vary from state to state.  In Virginia, each cremation must have a Commonwealth of Virginia Medical Examiner's review before proceeding.  There must be a visual identification of the deceased by the next of kin or their representative.  Prior to cremation, a required alternate container or casket for placement of the deceased in the cremation chamber must be selected.  All crematories in the Commonwealth are regulated by the Funeral Service Board of the Department of Health Professionals and the Department of Environmental Quality.

Can the family witness the cremation?

Yes.  Depending on the family's religious affiliation or preference, we offer the witnessing of the cremation.  Written authorization is required.

How can I be sure I receive the correct remains?

We have developed the most rigorous set of operating policies and procedures in order to maximize our level of quality and minimize the potential for human error. Positive identification of the deceased is assured throughout each stage of the cremation process. We only allow certified professionals to operate our cremation equipment.

Listed below are our procedures for cremation:

  1. As we take custody of the deceased, we place a wrist/ankle identification band on the deceased.
  2. We establish who the next of kin would be and contact this/those individual(s).
  3. As required by the Commonwealth of Virginia Medical Examiner, we contact the physician of record to set up signing and giving the cause of death on the certificate of death.
  4. After reviewing the death certificate, the Medical Examiner, unless there are questionable circumstances, will sign the Cremation Certificate, which allows the cremation to proceed as far as the Commonwealth is concerned.
  5. Giving us permission, in writing, to perform the cremation, the next of kin or an appointed agent signs the authorization for the cremation.
  6. With the family viewing the deceased, actual identity is documented.
  7. As our director completes a Crematory Fact Sheet, a timetable for the completion of the cremation is established so as to consider the family's needs.
  8. The cremation is logged into the record book.  The name of the deceased, date, cremation chamber used, time started and operator's name are recorded.  Copies of the Crematory Fact Sheet, the next of kin's authorization for cremation, the identification form and the Medical Examiner's Cremation Certificate are attached to the outside of the cremation chamber to be used.  A numbered, metal I.D. disc is also attached.
  9. Immediately following the cremation and the processing of the cremated remains, the metal I.D. disc and cremated remains are placed in an urn with the deceased individual's name adhered or engraved.
  10. At the time designated, the urn is returned to the family.  The family must show I.D. and sign a release stating they are taking custody of the cremated remains.
  11. If we are requested to forward the cremated remains to another city/state, the only acceptable means is by registered mail with the return receipt system of the U.S. Postal Service.
  12. All forms or certificates pertaining to the cremation are filed in the deceased individual's folder at our crematory office.

Questions About Urns, Caskets and Embalming

Do I need an Urn?

An urn is not required by law.  However, an urn may be desired if there is to be a memorial service or the cremated remains are to be interred in a cemetery.  If an urn is not selected, the cremated remains will be returned in a temporary, plastic canister, inside a cardboard box.

Is a casket needed for cremation?

All that is required by our crematory is an alternate cremation container which is cremated with the body.  The selection of a casket for cremation is an option.

Is embalming required prior to cremation?

Absolutely not and it is against the law for a funeral home to tell you otherwise.

Can the body be viewed without embalming?

Yes, immediate family members may briefly view the deceased, especially to identify, prior to cremation in our private viewing room.  The deceased is first washed, dressed or draped and prepared for viewing.  However, under certain circumstances, embalming may be required, such as a public visitation.