Popular Mechanics on Cremation and Memorialization

Mar 7, 2018 | 1 comment

Cremation Urns

Cremation urns on display

“Burning Out: What Really Happens Inside a Crematorium,” a huge feature story in the March 2018 issue of Popular Mechanics, covers just about everything you’d want to know about cremation. You can read the full article by Caren Chesler online.

Among the topics covered in this impressive article:

  • Cemeteries and columbaria – how the growing trend toward cremation is changing memorialization of the dead.
  • Why the U.S. cremation rate skyrocketed from 5% in the 1980s to more than 50% in 2016.
  • How flame-based cremation works (this is, after all, a Popular Mechanics article).
  • What cremated remains look like through different points in the cremation process.
  • Stories of people who have the cremated remains of loved ones at home and aren’t sure what to do with them.
  • The growing use of alkaline hydrolysis – illustrated with a YouTube video I did with funeral director Jeff Edwards explaining the process! (see the video below)
  • Scattering ashes versus giving them a permanent final resting place with memorialization.

While I already know a lot about cremation, this bit of information was news to me: The Cremator’s Rule of Thumb – 100 pounds of human fat is the equivalent of 17 gallons of kerosene.

Read the article online.

Here’s the video about alkaline hydrolysis Popular Mechanics used in the online version of the story.

Alkaline Hydrolysis Unit Tour

Jeff Edwards also did a great description of a natural gas-fired retort, the cremation machine.

Cremation Retort Tour

If you’re thinking about cremation, check out HAIL AND FAREWELL: Cremation Ceremonies, Templates and Tips

Hail and Farewell CoverThe book by Gail Rubin, Certified Thanatologist and Certified Funeral Celebrant, and Susan Fraser, respected memorial authority, covers everything related to creating a meaningful memorial service with cremated remains:

  • Why it’s important to hold some sort of goodbye ceremony.
  • A description of the cremation process, so families know what to expect.
  • Examples of different ways to scatter ashes – more than you’d think!
  • Stories of creative memorial services in different settings to spark ideas.
  • Templates to easily create meaningful memorial services.
  • Sample scripts from actual memorial services to provide inspiration.
  • Suggested readings, music and online resources for a wealth of meaningful materials to weave into a service.

The book’s title refers to the last line of an ancient elegiac poem written by the Roman poet Gaius Valerius Catullus approximately 2,000 years ago. He mourns the death of his brother, who died while Catullus was traveling abroad. Upon his return, he sadly addresses his brother’s cremated remains, “… with brotherly weeping. And forever, brother, hail and farewell.”

More information here.

A Good Goodbye