Frequent Questions - Cremation
Cremation is a process that uses heat (via fossil fuels) to create temperatures between 1700°F and 2000°F. During the process, all organic material in the body burns away, leaving behind inorganic bones. After 2 to 2.5 hours in the machine, what is left are these skeletal remains. The bones are swept out of the cremation chamber (also called a retort) and processed down to a fine particulate mixture typically called ashes or cremated remains.
If you’re interested in a more detailed explanation of everything happening during the cremation process, our founder Caitlin explains in video form, available to watch here.
Absolutely. Clarity Funerals has multiple safeguards and procedures in place to ensure you will never receive incorrect ashes or remains. We understand how important this is for peace of mind, and the process has been designed to have checks at each stage.
This attention to detail starts when bringing someone into our care, when the family, nurse, or hospital signs off that they are releasing the specific person to us. When the person arrives at our facility they are given a distinct ankle tag.
Prior to cremation, all the documentation is reviewed. In addition, a metal disk with a unique ID matching the paperwork is placed in the cremation chamber with the body. The only thing that survives the cremation process are the bones (ashes) and that metal disk. The bones are processed and placed into a bag that is closed with a tie and that metal disk. If it ever became necessary, you could trace this disk back through the paperwork to see all the details of the process, including when it happened, where it happened, and who performed the cremation.
For more specifics on identification procedures, and ensuring the right ashes go to the right person, our founder Caitlin has created a video that can be watched by clicking here.
The timeframe– from the moment you notify us the death has occurred until the remains are returned to you– can range from a few days to just over a week.
Here are several factors that can impact the time the cremation takes to complete.
- The Day of Death– Clarity aims to shield you from most of the bureaucracy involved in Southern California death, but despite our best efforts it can effect how quickly we are able to file the needed paperwork. If your loved one dies at the end of the week, chances are that the agencies we rely on (the county, state, hospitals, doctors, etc) will be out of office until the following week. Unfortunately, doctors and bureaucrats are just as eager to get out of the office Friday afternoon as the rest of society.
- The Doctor’s Signature- Before we are able to file the death certificate (allowing the cremation or burial to take place) a doctor must sign the death certificate. Doctors have 48 hours from when it lands on their desk to get it done. There are times where a signature takes even longer. The sad truth is, if a doctor doesn’t sign, nothing proceeds.
- Your Paperwork- With all the best intentions, some families get overwhelmed with the number of balls they are juggling after a death. It can take days (even weeks) for some families to get their part of the paperwork back to us. Without that important information and signature authorizations, we can’t do anything but wait.
- Busy Cremation Schedule- Under most circumstances, once we have all the permits, authorizations, and payment in order, it is only a couple of days before we have the remains back to you. There are times however (cold and flu seasons, the holiday season) when cremation waits are a little bit longer.
A note on Rush Cremations: It is possible for us to perform rush cremations (under 72 hours), but an additional fee is involved. These situations take all hands-on-deck to get these permits and paperwork in place. Moving to the top of the list can require herculean efforts when it comes to doctors, permits, and crematory schedules, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Check with us to see if rushing the cremation is something that can be done in your case.
Every set of ashes is, by default, returned to the family in a sturdy black travel urn. Because the urn is plastic, it isn’t an ideal container from an environmental perspective. However, a large percentage of families want their loved one’s remains mailed or need to take them on a plane to get them home. We made the decision to keep this urn because it is secure, travels well, works as a scattering urn, and most importantly – it is familiar to TSA and customs agents.
Keep in mind that you are 100% able to supply your own urn instead. We love it when families have an heirloom container or something their family member would have loved. Ask us any questions you have about specifics.
Finally, we have an array of environmentally-conscious urns available to purchase. They can be used for ocean or land scattering, or display in your home. See what we offer and prices here.
Here are the most common requests we receive from families who wish to have items returned after the cremation process.
Gold crown & fillings – Most people don’t realize that while the crown may look like a lot of gold, the reality is that very little metal is used. The dental gold is “destroyed” in the process of cremation, meaning that it is melted and combines with the remains in the process and is unrecoverable. The only way to retain the gold is to extract the teeth prior to cremation. If you or your family wishes to hire a dental professional to perform this removal, we will welcome them into our facility to do so.
More information on the reality of gold fillings found here, in a video by founder Caitlin Doughty.
Hip & Knee Implants– Surgical and medical implants that are done surgically are technically the property of the family. We automatically send them off to a medical metal recycling program so that they are not wasted and can see another life, in whatever form that might be. Occasionally, we get a request to have a hip implant or knee returned, and we can certainly accommodate that.
More information on recycling implants found here, in a video by founder Caitlin Doughty.
Whole or UnProcessed Bones – Some families want entire bones (skull, femur, tibia, etc) returned after a cremation. Unfortunately, the process of the cremation renders the bones so brittle that they don’t come back whole. State regulation requires the bones be processed down to “unidentifiable” remains. If you want the ashes returned without being process down to ash (essentially chunks of bones) we are able to request this with the state for a religious or cultural exemption. Please let us know.
California law makes it very clear to funeral homes exactly who has the authority to sign off on the cremation or burial process. The person or people whose signatures are required is laid out in Health & Safety Code 7100, and we are not allowed to deviate from this list.
Roughly, the list starts with the Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare (if the decedent had appointed one) and moves down through the spouse, adult children, parents, adult siblings, and so on. Where it can become complicated is when there is more than one person in a group, ex. more than one child, or multiple siblings. In that case, the law is clear that the “majority” of signatures is required. Seeking signatures from multiple children and siblings can add time to the process, but it is necessary for the funeral home to keep everything above board.
The cremated remains of your loved one will be somewhere between 6 – 9 pounds. They will fit in an urn that 4”x10”x6” which is basically the equivalent of a bread box. So that is the amount you will be working with as you make your decision.
The most popular choices of our families are:
1) Keeping the ashes in an urn at home.
2) Scattering the ashes in the sea or in a special location (we are happy to assist with permits for this choice.)
3) Burying or scattering the ashes in a cemetery.
If you would like to separate a small portion of the ashes to place in a smaller urn or jewelry, please let us know. We can transfer the ashes for you, or we can help you to make the transfer. The cremated remains are not dangerous in any way, and it can be healing for the family to be hands on in the process.
Absolutely, what you’re talking about is called a witness cremation. If you choose this option we will schedule a time for you (and a small group, if you wish) to come to our crematory and accompany your loved one as they are placed into the cremation machine. Selected family members or friends can help place the person into the machine and push the button that starts the actual cremation process.
Ask us about other rituals, such as letter-writing, dressing of the body, or music that can be done with a witness cremation. Pricing and more information on the service can be found here.
We are always happy to have your visit our office in Hollywood. Please make an appointment if you would like to do so.
At the office we will have samples of our biodegradable urns and smaller portion urns, but likely you will find the widest range of options by seeing what we have here. Caskets are too large to be kept at our location in the middle of Los Angeles, so each one is special ordered for your loved one at the time of death. Here are the most common caskets and shrouds chosen our families.