Embalming and other types of preservation have been recorded in history as far back as the Egyptians. Back in those days, only the wealthy were embalmed, or "mummified", as it was known then. And history has shown that the Egyptian mummies were well preserved for thousands of years. Over the years the procedure has changed many times to what we now know as modern day embalming.
We use embalming today for two primary reasons - to allow adequate time between death and burial to observe social customs such as visitations and funeral services, and to prevent the spread of infection. Cosmetic work is often used for aesthetic reasons.
No casket is legally required for cremation, just a simple container, which is strong enough to hold the body. This could be a box of rough boards, pressboard, or heavy cardboard.
Some crematories accept metal caskets; most require the container to be combustible.
If the body is cremated:
- The remains can be stored by the family
- You may take the remains in the simple cardboard box supplied by the crematory and distribute ("scatter") them over the land or water.
- The remains can be placed in a niche within a columbarium.
- The remains can be buried in the ground in a regular plot or in a smaller cremation plot.
- The remains can be entombed in a crypt within a mausoleum.
A memorial service is a service without the body present and can vary in ceremony and procedures according to the community and religious affiliations. Some families prefer public visitations followed by a private or graveside service with a memorial service later at the church or funeral home.
If the body is buried:
- It can be interred (earth burial)
- It can be entombed in a crypt within a mausoleum (above-ground burial)
- It can be buried at sea
A "visitation" is when the body is laid out in the casket (which may be open or closed) before the service so that mourners may come to "visit."
A visitation offers a chance for people to "pay their final respects" to the deceased. Just as important, the visitation can be a time for mourners to meet and console each other in a more informal setting than at the funeral.