The Crematorium

Recently the local crematorium had an open day, or to be more exact, an open evening.
Visitors such as myself, who had to register beforehand, were taken on a tour of the facilities, and given information on legal issues, procedures, options, etc.

Of course there were no funerals or cremations under way, and I didn’t take any photos, not just because I didn’t see anything that I wanted to photograph, but because it wouldn’t have seemed very cool to pull out a camera!

I learnt a lot. What surprised me, for example, was that when the burning is completed, usually depending on the size of the body, after about one and a half hours, some of the large bones such as the femur are still intact. Usually they are put into a grinding machine (I saw theirs) and the resulting ashes all put into a container.

However, it is permissable for the family to request that some of these large bones be kept intact and handed back along with the ash. I suppose that the large bones are not in great shape but it did seem an interesting option, one which apparently some people have chosen. It has a certain appeal for me. I think that I would quite like the bones of some of my ancestors. It certainly seems like an option that I would consider, not that I am taking orders for any of my bones just yet, unless perhaps Te Papa made me good offer, money in advance.

I was also interested in what happens to metal that might be in the body. Mercury and gold vapourises and goes up the chimney, but titanium, such as I have in my skull, does not. It too can be requested by the family, so if you want your aunty’s artificial hip on your mantelpiece, that is an option. Usual practice though is that the crematorium disposes of the titanium left behind in the ovens.

Roughly 80% of New Zealanders are now cremated, although the rate is slightly lower in Taranaki, apparently attributable to the high number of Catholics in this province. Although Catholics are now permitted by their church to be cremated there is still a slight preference for burial. (Although I am an atheist, on my mother’s side I am Catholic Taranaki, and I enjoy going to cemeteries here and looking at the names of relations, going back many generations.)

Overall it was a worthwhile experience though a sobering one to be looking into the two ovens that they have here, and thinking that if I am to die while living in New Plymouth, they are the very ovens that my body will be slid into for destruction.