The rite of cremation is growing among Americans. Now, about half of all deaths involve cremation instead of burial. There are quite a few reasons for this: it's less expensive, it saves land for other uses, and most importantly, it has become more socially acceptable. However, the actual process of cremation remains out of sight to the public, and even to the family members of the deceased. Caren Chesler took a tour of a crematorium and talked with the professionals that carry out the process.
The bodies arrive in caskets, occasionally made of wood but more commonly cardboard. They remain in these containers during the entire stay. There are health reasons for this, such as protecting the technicians from infectious diseases. There are moral reasons—“the family would want them in something,” Koslovski says. There are logistical reasons, too. “It would be extremely difficult to load a set of human remains without a casket. Just think of a body, and trying to put it into a cremation unit.”
The caskets go into the crematorium’s walk-in cooler, which is lined with shelves of them. One casket has a label on it from Delta Airlines that says, “Human Remains," and under it, "Delta Cares." Bodies typically remain a day or two in the cooler, because most states require a 24-hour waiting period between when someone dies and cremation can occur. When something is so final, you want to take a pause.