Burial FAQs

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Definitions

Traditional Service
The deceased is present at the service in a casket with cremation or burial following the service. Caskets may be purchased or rented for this type of service.
Embalming
The disinfection, preservation, and restoration of human remains for the purpose of viewing. This is done solely at the family's discretion.

FAQs

Why do we embalm?

There are three purposes that embalming serves. Firstly, embalming disinfects the body. With the application of antibacterial soaps and chemicals, both internally and externally, we are able to eliminate or greatly reduce the infectious agents that may be present on the body. Even if the deceased did not die from an infections virus or bacteria, there are pathogens that can be picked up from the hospital or morgue, and others that proliferate on a human body once it has died. These pathogens are extremely dangerous to the living, and so it is necessary, but not the law to embalm when a family wants to view the deceased. It is very important for your loved one to be pathogen free, especially if there is an open casket viewing. Many people touch or kiss the deceased as a final goodbye, and this can be extremely dangerous if the deceased is not embalmed. Most funeral homes will not allow you to have an open casket viewing without embalming. Not only is it dangerous for you and your loved ones, but also for the funeral home staff.

Secondly, embalming restores the human body to a lifelike state. When we die, there are natural processes that occur, changing the way we look. Our blood stops flowing through our veins and begins to settle. This causes our skin to lose its pinkish hue. Because our muscles no longer work, eyes and mouths do not stay closed on their own. Embalming allows us to restore the lifelike colour of the deceased and position them in a way that makes them appear to be asleep and at peace. Funeral directors are also trained to restore bruises, cuts and more traumatic injuries that occur due to accidental deaths. These may be unsightly and hurtful for the family and friends to view.

The third purpose of embalming is preservation. When we die, our body begins to break down and decomposition occurs. These processes can be slowed greatly by embalming. There are many instances when a viewing or funeral cannot occur right away. Sometimes families are forced to wait for friends and relatives to arrive from out of town, or funeral homes are booked until a later date. If a body is to be viewed, it is necessary to embalm the deceased. The chemicals added to the body by the funeral director, almost completely stop the decomposition process, allowing time for the family for whatever reason they may need.

Is embalming required by law?

No, embalming is not required by law in any Canadian province. Embalming may be the policy of a particular funeral home when you are having a visitation or open casket service, however it is not required by law. We are one of the few funeral establishments that offer alternative preparation for a viewing, which is less expensive and offers a dignified option.

There is one instance where embalming is required by law. If you wish to ship the deceased out of country, it is an absolute requirement that the body be embalmed. All countries, including our own, will not accept a body that has not been embalmed. Shipments by airplane or ship can take months to arrange, and the body will completely decompose during this time. As well, countries do not want to take the risk of accepting a body that may have an infectious disease that can be spread if not embalmed.

When making arrangements with a funeral director, they must obtain permission to embalm from you. They cannot go ahead with the process without your consent. It is important to keep in mind the importance embalming serves when viewing the deceased. If you choose to have a direct burial or cremation, and will not be viewing the deceased, embalming is not necessary.

Containers and caskets: what’s the difference and which should I choose?

Whether arranging for a burial or cremation, it is necessary to choose between a container or a casket. Both containers and caskets are available for cremation or burial, and the options may seem endless. It is important that you understand the differences between a container and a casket, and decide on which you feel is most appropriate.

A container is a simple version of a casket. It can be as simple as a cardboard box (available for cremation only), or made out of wood. Unlike a casket, containers do not contain a lining of material on the inside. Because of their simplicity and low cost, containers are used mostly for cremation, but can be used for a burial if preferred.

A casket can be made out of wood or metal, is usually ornamented and contains an inner lining. Caskets are more expensive than containers because of the fabrics, wood and metal used in their production as well as the cost of labour that goes into making them. Caskets are chosen mainly for burials but there are many cultures who do choose to cremate their loved one’s in a wooden casket (metal caskets cannot be cremated).

Whether you wish to cremate or bury your loved one in a container or casket is simply personal preference. Some people cannot imagine burying or cremating someone they love in a simple container, and others do not understand the concept of spending large amounts of money just to burn or bury an expensive casket. The best thing you can do is think about what the deceased would have wanted, what your beliefs are, and how much you are willing or able to spend. Do not allow funeral homes to pressure or persuade you into a purchase you are not 100% comfortable with. Always tell your funeral director what you are looking for before entering a casket selection room and let them know whether or not a fancy casket or simple container is the right choice for you.

What is a burial vault? Do I need one?

A casket or urn is usually considered the final resting place of a loved one. Have you ever considered what happens to the pricey urn or casket once it is buried? Many people don’t know that caskets and urns usually crack and cave in under the weight of the earth. To some, this is obvious and just a part of death. It is organic and an event that is inevitable. For others, this is hard to swallow. What is the purpose of burying an expensive urn or casket if it is just going to be destroyed? The solution lies in the invention of the burial vault.

A burial vault is solid container that is placed into a grave before a burial. They are usually made out of concrete and lined with layers of metal or polymers. During the burial, the casket or urn is placed into the vault. A vault can serve multiple purposes. Firstly, their purpose is to create peace of mind. They are designed to have an airtight seal, thus keeping air inside the vault and water out, protecting the contents of the vault. They are also designed to withstand thousands of pounds of pressure, to keep the casket or urn safe from the ground above and the heavy cemetery machinery that drives on it. Unlike a burial vault, a grave liner does not keep the elements away from an urn or casket. They are made from porous cement that can cave in from the pressures exerted from above. Grave liners cover only the walls of the grave and the top of the casket or urn, and do not completely encapsulate it.

Some cemeteries require the purchase of a vault or grave liner for a burial. The reason for this is that the cemetery grounds are unstable, due to soil quality or the amount of ground water. A vault is required as a safety precaution, so that the earth on top will not collapse under the pressure from the activities above.

Burial vaults are usually guaranteed to work by their manufacturers. Vault producers use multiple forms of technology to ensure that the vault can equally distribute weight and withstand the forces from above. Some companies have a lid that uses the same seal technology as airplane windows.

If you are not required by the cemetery to purchase a grave liner or burial vault then the choice is yours. If you feel it will give you peace of mind that the casket or urn is protected from the elements, then the purchase may be the right choice for you. If you feel the processes that take place with a burial are natural and should remain that way, do not feel pressured to purchase a grave liner or burial vault.