Mortal Remains… Which Choice is Best for You?

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Retiring Your Mortal Remains

While all the traditional routes to burial remain popular, there are new movements within the funeral and burial industry that are seeking to have a closer relationship to their deceased rather than the arms-length approach we typically follow today. Death doulas, death cafes and new approaches to palliative care are examples of these relatively recent changes.

The treatment of the body (such as burial, creation, etc.) are independent of the celebration or service to follow. For example, a burial or wake can occur with cremated remains; a funeral can have an open casket or cremated remains. This section explores some of the options therein.

Consider your family and friend when making plans. Would they find it helpful or comforting to have a place to visit you? If so, what kind of location makes the most sense based on their needs and your budget? The where can be as important as the what.

With “The Big Event”, Check-Out members are encouraged to sort through these choices to provide a thoughtful guide of their wishes for family and friends. Sign up for your membership and visit to get started.

Traditional burial

Underground burials remain the most common method of interment in the western world. The body is prepared and embalmed and placed into a casket, or coffin, and buried typically six feet under the ground in the local cemetery. The embalming process is also done to preserve the body for a brief time to create an opportunity for loved ones to view the body as well, transportation requirements. Many modern cemeteries add a concrete lining to the gravesite to temporarily reduce decomposition of the body. Often, headstones or memorials are then placed above ground over the location of the body and as both a marker and reminder. Memorials such as this give loved ones a place to visit, or grieve to feel closer to deceased loved ones.

The population of the cemetery is often sectioned into different groups designated by family, religion, military service and/or other indicators.

Traditions associated with traditional burial include loved ones dressed in the color of mourning (usually black) who then take seats in the church or synagogue pews for a somber ceremony where prayers are said, memories are shared and tears are shed. Attendees walk to their cars and form a single file line a behind the hearse. Once they arrive at the graveyard, a graveside service is given and roses are typically placed on the casket as it is lowered into the ground. Afterwards, people often gather at the home of a near relative to comfort each other, share food, and remember.

Other variations of burial include public or private mausoleums which is an above-ground building memorializing multiple individuals. Mausoleums provide a secure enclosure that remains clean and completely dry without letting the casket or vault come in contact with the earth or elements.

As well, lawn crypts allow more than one person to be memorialized together (though they are also available for one person). And, as in mausoleums, the space always remains clean and dry.

Make your wishes clear in Check-Out’s The Big Event section and share those wishes with your team to save your family and friends from these difficult decisions.

Natural burial

While traditional burial puts a high priority on preserving remains as long as possible, natural burial allows the remains to “return to the earth”. With minimum impact on the environment, remains are placed directly into the earth and allowed to decompose as nature intended. In some cases, the body is buried in a biodegradable casket or in a simple burial shroud, and the gravesite is typically dug by hand and does not use the heavy machinery typically used for a traditional burial.

Green burial

Although the two terms are often used interchangeably, natural burial and green burial are different. “Natural burial” strictly refers to the actually burial process. Thus, the opening and closing of the gravesite, the preparation and placement of those remains in the burial plot.

In a “green burial,” all of these processes occur, but the term actually refers to the cemetery in which the burial takes place. For example, a truly “green cemetery” uses no artificial pesticides.  Remains that are interred in a green cemetery cannot be embalmed or buried in a traditional casket. And so, while providing a final resting place, green burials also create minimum impact of the environment. Become the gift of life that keeps on giving!


Cremation is one of the most common processes of body disposition. The body is exposed to high temperatures of 1400 to 1800 degrees fahrenheit or 740 to 982 celsius causing it to burn, leaving the ashes, or cremains. This procedure usually takes two to three hours and occurs in a special type of furnace known as a cremation chamber or retort. The remains are then processed into a finer substance and placed in a temporary container. Before the ashes are returned to the family, the ashes are then usually transferred to a permanently sealed urn.

The family can opt to bury them in a cemetery, place them in a crypt, disperse them in a special place or keep them close by.

Beyond the traditional approach, there are several inspired approaches for what to do with the cremated remains. Several inspired options are available for the treatment of ashes such as being made into jewelry? Rules vary between states, provinces and municipalities, so its best to check with either your funeral director or governing body about the options legally available.

All crematoriums have a form/application process where they will want to know about prosthetic limbs, pacemakers and treatments or infectious diseases that may present a danger to crematorium staff.

Donate your body to science

Different than donating organs and tissues used to help the living, body donation offers the whole body after death to advance the studies of research and education.

Medical schools or schools of anatomy are dependent upon the generosity of persons willing to donate their bodies to train future medical professionals, enhance skill sets and expand knowledge. In the US alone, less than 20,000 bodies per year are donated to medical research and training.

Nearly all body donations are managed through universities. Since there may be fees attached to the transport of your body, it is important to consider the location of the institution. Beware of companies who offer to provide your body to institutions on your behalf. They are often after-market sellers who harvest and sell parts for profit.

It is essential to plan ahead for whole body donation as the body must be received by the school as soon after death as possible, with 24 hours being the ideal. As well, there are several restrictions that prevent donation such as autopsy, some forms of cancer or disease, and extensive trauma to the body.

To properly prepare your wishes in advance, search for “Donate my body to science in…[add your province/state].” Once you have located the correct form, complete and submit it for review.

Upload and file both the donation form and the acceptance letter into your Check-Out plan, where your team can ensure that your wishes are followed. Remember, should you choose body donation, your Celebration of Life or Funeral Service is still completely possible.

Organ donation

The donation of your organs, tissue or bone can truly mean the gift of life for someone awaiting the call. Considering there are more than 7 billion people on the planet today, the number of people literally dying to receive an organ transplant is… Unfortunate. More than 100,000 people in the U.S. alone are waiting for an organ transplant and may never get the call saying that a suitable donor organ or that second chance at life has been found.

Of these people, more than 21 people die daily in the US for the lack of suitable organs. There are several misconceptions about the process of organ donation such as the idea that the hospital staff won’t work as hard to save you If they know you’ve agreed to donate. This is just not true. Doctors and staff are sworn to protect your health to the best of their ability. Staff takes extra steps (at no cost) to ensure that a person is truly dead before they approve the harvesting process. Although most religions support the concept of organ donation, check with a member of your clergy or faith to confirm.

Organ and tissue donation doesn’t interfere with having an open-casket funeral. The donor’s body is clothed for burial, so there are no visible signs of organ or tissue donation. For bone donation, a rod is inserted where bone is removed. With skin donation, a very thin layer of skin similar to a sunburn peel is taken from the donor’s back. Because the donor is clothed and lying on his or her back in the casket, no one can see any difference.

The opportunity to have an open-casket funeral or viewing is still entirely possible for organ donors since the body is clothed for burial. As well, in the case of bone donation, rods are inserted where bone is removed. With skin donation, a very thin layer of skin similar to a sunburn peel is taken from the donor’s back. Since the donor is clothed and lying their back in the casket, it will be impossible to discern that bone, tissue or organ donation has occurred.

Once you have applied and are approved, you will become a member of a transplant registry. Since there are many more people waiting transplants than donating, your organs will be matched with those on the wait list when the time comes. If all goes well, your donations become the gift of life for those in need.

There are no age, gender or race restrictions of age for organ donation and in fact, people on need of all ages, all ethnicities and religions await the call.

Once you’ve decided which choice is best for you, get started by visiting The Big Event section deals exclusively with the process of retiring your mortal remains.

Check-Out provides an easy-to-use website to help you plan your end-of-life event, and it can be updated anytime. Communicating your last wishes with loved ones eases their stress and worry by sharing your clear and concise instructions. As well, upload your memories in the form of the stories, photos, and songs that define you. Check-Out is for people who care…

How Would You Like to Be Remembered?

Visit and get started today!

By Check-Out Services Ltd. Copyright © 2019

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