I want to be cremated, so the box does not matter.
They will still get you. 30 years ago I was charged $100 for the cardboard box mom was placed in for cremation. $100 in 1980 is ? in 2011?
Get your box now for next to nothing and store it.
More people in this country are choosing cremation than ever before. And, given that cremation was for years castigated by many as an uncivilized, irreligious, cheap way to "dispose" of a loved one, the recent shift is immense.
Just 4 percent of the dead were cremated in this country in 1967, but that number had climbed to 26 percent by 2000.
Washington is one of the states leading the way. Nearly 60 percent of bodies here go into a fire rather than into the ground. Washington has the third-highest cremation rate in the country, surpassed only by Hawaii and Nevada.
Cremation numbers remain low in some areas, particularly the South and Midwest, but continue to grow nationally. By 2010, cremation is projected to rise to 40 percent across the nation and to more than 65 percent in Washington.
"I think it probably will never be 100 percent, but I fully expect it to reach 75 to 80 percent in this state (one day)," said James Noel, executive director of the Washington State Funeral Directors Association.
State workers make unannounced inspections of crematories annually to help prevent atrocities like the one earlier this year in Georgia, where it was discovered that a businessman dumped 339 bodies on his property instead of cremating them.
One way families can be sure they're receiving a loved one's remains is to watch the cremation. That's an experience most crematories offer, though few people attend.
One notable exception is some East Indian families, who walk the casket to the crematory on family members' shoulders and stop to pray seven times. The family places paraffin candles on the container as it goes into the chamber, then the eldest son presses the start button.
During the cremation process, the body is never left unattended. It is checked for pacemakers, jewelry and other personal property before being wrapped in plastic and placed in a reinforced cardboard box called a cremation container. Some families buy a simple casket instead.
At least two documents travel with the body during preparations -- the cremation authorization, which must be signed by a family member, and a burial transit permit, which is filed with the county health department after cremation.
A metal tag, usually connected to an ankle or wrist, goes into the crematory with the body and later is twisted around the plastic bag that holds the cremains. Only one body is burned at a time and the paperwork follows the body, clipped to the outside of the burning chamber (called a retort) while it is fired.
The box is placed into the retort, which runs on natural gas and heats to between 1,600 and 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. A door closes with the push of a button, quieting the roar of the orange flames, which sound like a muted jet engine.
At first, a small puff of white smoke escapes, but soon it burns clear through an unfiltered stack as a mixture of water vapor and carbon dioxide. Since a body is mostly liquid, the hot fire desiccates the remains until only bone fragments are left. That takes about 45 minutes to an hour.
The retort is then cooled and a long-handled broom is used to sweep the chalky gray remains into a box. The bone fragments, of various shapes and sizes, cool for up to two hours before they are put into a processor, where they are pulverized for about a minute.
Then the powder, which by state law must not have bone fragments exceeding five millimeters (or be recognizable as human remains), is poured into a simple plastic box lined with a plastic bag, unless a family has purchased or sent an urn. The cremated remains weigh anywhere from 3 to 9 pounds.
Getting what you want
If you want to be cremated, experts say to write it down, sign it and have a witness sign too. Then, provide copies to your relatives and make a point of talking with them about your wishes.
If you haven't documented your wishes, your spouse makes the decision. If there's no spouse, a person's children must all be contacted and agree on what is to be done with the body -- and it can be difficult to achieve consensus. If there is no spouse or children, next in line are a person's parents, then siblings, or lastly, a representative of the deceased with signed authorization.
"I think people are more relieved when it's talked about," said Leone Lewis, a licensed funeral director who's worked for the Neptune Society and other cremation companies. "Because even if people don't agree (on the choice), they know they're following their parents' wishes."
Tom Simonson, president of the Cremation Association of North America, says the most common concern about cremation is that a family won't receive the right remains. "Ask about the procedure, so you have certainty," Simonson says. "If a firm doesn't have written procedures or openness, it's probably not a good choice."
Evergreen-Washelli's Web site provides a photo tour of the cremation process. They describe it in detail, and they invite people to visit the crematorium. "I'm absolutely convinced that an informed customer is going to be a happy one," said Daly, Evergreen-Washelli president.
Feedback from visitors to the site has been good. One man wrote that he wanted a live Webcast of his cremation, so friends could see him slim down from a 275-pound frame to eight pounds of cremains.
Many funeral homes and cremation groups offer pre-payment, which can make death arrangements easier for family and friends. But make sure you understand exactly what you're purchasing and what options you have if you change your mind later. As always, give copies to close relatives.
And compare prices, says Marie Sullivan, spokeswoman for the Department of Licensing, which does not regulate fees. "It really pays for people to shop around," she said. "This is a really consumer-oriented business."
Under Washington law, funeral homes are required to give you their general price list on the phone or in writing. But, be warned: price lists can be lengthy and confusing.
If you opt for direct cremation, that doesn't mean there's no need or desire for a funeral or memorial service.
Whether you create a service on your own or with the help of a funeral home, professionals say it's an important part of grieving and accepting that the loved one is gone.
"We must, as human beings, have a ritual and a little more. We need that memorializing," Lewis said.
I would like to be heaved off the Confederation Bridge so I could become one with the fishies.
I used to work for the Milwaukee branch (junior league) of an Italian "thing". When I quit and became a manager of another club (on the river next to a bridge) I had some concerns about me and them fishies.
I'll believe corporations are persons when Texas executes one.: LBJ's Ghost