Planning a Funeral
In many ways, the pinnacle of life is death. That is not only the case for a person who has passed but on some level for those that are left behind. As a consequence, we have a tradition of memorializing the life of a loved one through a funeral or memorial service. There is a number of important factors associated with the aftermath of the death of a family member or other loved one. With this in mind, there exist a number of key questions associated with a loved one’s passing, remains preparation, funeral, and final disposition:
- What happens directly after a person passes on?
- How can a loved one be memorialized?
- What options are available to prepare remains following death?
- What are the types of final disposition for a loved one?
What Happens Directly after a Person Passes On?
What happens directly after a person passes on depends on two primary factors: where the death occurred and how the person died. These types of issues are discussed within the resources included in this section, all of which can be accessed below.
With these potential preliminary issues noted, following the passing of a loved one, the remains more often than not are transported to a funeral home for preparation and ultimate internment, cremation, or for some type of direct burial.
It’s important to note that Philadelphia law permits a family to have the remains of a loved one brought to a private residence for a memorial service, followed by a final disposition. In other words, despite a misconception to the contrary, the law typically does not require a funeral home to be involved in the process.
How Can a Loved One Be Memorialized?
A loved one can be memorialized in a number of different ways, including a more traditional funeral. At the bottom of this introductory page, a considerable array of resources is available to provide information regarding arranging a funeral. Oftentimes, if a person is a member of religious faith or part of spiritual practice, the organization or group may have established funeral practices that the faithful or adherents follow.
A graveside service represents another option available as a means of memorializing a loved one who has passed on. In some instances, a funeral or graveside service cannot immediately be planned. Thus, a family of a deceased individual and other loved ones will elect to have a memorial service at a later date. As with funerals, there is a wide range of resources available in this section designed to assist in planning a graveside or memorial service for a deceased loved one.
What Options Are Available to Prepare Remains Following Death?
There exists an array of significant misconceptions regarding what can and cannot happen in regard to the preparation of a deceased individual’s remains. The most significant of these rather ubiquitous misconceptions is that a mandatory step that must occur following a death is the embalming of remains. In fact, the laws of the state of Philadelphia do not mandate the embalming of a body following death.
As was mentioned previously, the human decomposition process commences immediately at the time of death. Embalming considerably slows down this natural process, although it doesn’t bring it to complete termination.
Embalming is a useful procedure if the loved ones of a deceased individual plan to have a viewing of an open casket at a funeral service. In addition, embalming is helpful if there will be more than a few days elapsing from a person’s death to the time of the funeral. The traditional course over the course of approximately the past 150 years in the United States is for the remains of a loved one to be embalmed.
Cremation is now widely practiced in the country, including in Philadelphia . Approximately half of all people who pass on at this juncture in time are cremated.
Cremation can occur after a body has been embalmed and funeral service, including a viewing, is held. In the alternative, direct cremation is also an increasingly more commonplace practice. Rather than being embalmed, remains can be cremated directly following death.
Natural practices are slowly becoming more prevalent when it comes to the preparation of remains following death. With this course of preparation of remains, technically, nothing is done to a body following death. Remains temporarily are maintained using ice or refrigeration. There may be a viewing or funeral. However, when a deceased person’s mortal remains are being maintained via refrigeration or ice, the funeral or other type of tribute normally is scheduled close to the day a person passes on.
What Are the Types of Final Disposition for a Loved One?
At this period in time, there are a number of more commonly utilized means for the final disposition of a deceased person’s remains. Burial or interment of a body or cremains underground or in a mausoleum remains a preferred means of final disposition today.
When this “traditional” course is followed, a deceased person is placed in a casket. Most cemeteries in Philadelphia and elsewhere require what is known as a grave liner to be used as well. This typically is a concrete receptacle into which a casket is placed. The grave liner is then sealed, and it, together with the casket, is placed into the ground.
Every year, an increasing number of people are opting for what is called a natural or direct burial. In basic terms, this is a burial that occurs without a casket and with remains that have not been embalmed. The objective is for the deceased individual’s remains to “return to the earth” as quickly as possible. Bear in mind while there are some cemeteries in Philadelphia that offer natural burials, a considerable majority do not at this time. Thus, a good amount of preplanning needs to be undertaken if this is the preferred course of internment.
A considerable degree of flexibility exists when it comes to the disposition of cremains. With that said, there are some religions that have stringent guidelines regarding the manner in which cremains are disposed of. For example, the Catholic Church mandates that while people can be cremated, the cremains must be buried or otherwise interred in a manner similar to the disposition of a body.
Absent some religious proscription; people have become rather creative regarding the final disposition of cremains. In addition to being buried or interred in a mausoleum, cremains can be scattered, over land, or at sea. Cremains can also be incorporated into memorial items, including pieces of jewelry. A familiar practice is for cremains to be placed in an urn and then maintained at a family residence.