Updated: Jan 28, 2022
When someone comes to us to receive the cremated human remains (cremains) of their loved one, the procedure is a matter of having them sign a form, and then handing them a box or urn.
Procedure doesn't mean it can't be personal, so I like to bring them into one of our arrangement offices where they can sign the document and receive the urn or container in privacy.
Sometimes, that’s all people want to do — sign, receive their loved one, and exit.
But there are people who want to stay — maybe a few minutes, maybe longer.
Cremains are brought from the crematory to our funeral home around **7 - 10 days after a person has died (or after their funeral).
That family member or friend is usually entering the forest of grief, where there are no trails or guideposts.
If they want to talk for awhile, we do. They tell me stories or ask questions.
We just get to be people together in a slow and quiet space.
They are some of the best moments in my work.
Last summer, I stood in a cemetery as people departed after the graveside committal service.
A woman who had been lingering started chatting with my husband and me.
She paid us one of the highest compliments we've ever received:
"You're not just doing your job; you're performing one of the corporal works of mercy."
If you're not familiar:
"The Corporal Works of Mercy are found in the teachings of Jesus and give us a model for how we should treat all others, as if they were Christ in disguise.
They"are charitable actions by which we help our neighbors in their bodily needs" (USCCA). They respond to the basic needs of humanity as we journey together through this life."
To feed the hungry.
To give drink to the thirsty.
To clothe the naked.
To visit the imprisoned.
To shelter the homeless.
To visit the sick.
To bury the dead.
Hearing her say that made me feel even more honored and humbled to do what I do every day.
The work I do may be procedural at times, but it will always be personal.
** A FEW INSIGHTS ON CREMATION (based on what I’ve experienced at our funeral home):
Funeral homes sometimes have an on-site crematory; but, more often than not, they outsource the cremation process to a cremation facility or mortuary service.
Their function may be one or more of the following:
to remove bodies from the facilities where someone has died
embalm bodies and take them to funeral homes
to “hold” human bodies in a “cooling” area of the facility if they are not to be embalmed (it might be that burial or cremation arrangements are still pending, which might necessitate that)
The cremation rate is growing as more and more people choose it as the method of disposition for a human body after death.
The cremation facilities in our region can operate as many as 24 hours a day to meet the demand.
People outside of funeral service don’t often understand that cremation is a process with steps and stages.
All told, that process takes hours — not minutes.
We tell our families that we will receive their loved one’s remains in that 7 - 10 day window of time (hopefully sooner).
So, we are not “just holding onto” bodies because we want to or don’t think there is any hurry (those concerns have been expressed to me in the past).
We are working with other professionals in our city who help us carry out our services.
Changes are happening as our businesses evolve and we‘re always growing to meet those emerging needs.
If you curious to know more about ...
- What working in funeral service and death care is about (the day-to-day operations, as well perspectives on life, death, human behavior, the human experience, family businesses, love, grief, rites, rituals and more)
- What it’s like to be a woman working in a male-dominated industry that is grounded in being passed along to generations of men
- Making beautiful and courageous choices in midlife — ANYwhere in life
… then please have a listen to this interview with my friend, Petra Kolber on her new podcast:
The Age of Possibility: Live Like You‘re Dying
I’m honored to have been her first guest.