Is it hot in here? Jason Hall visits a crematorium

crematorium“I’m sure it’s okay,” says Beth, one of the staff at the crematorium – or crem, as everyone calls it. “But let me just double-check.”

Beth is ringing up her supervisor to check whether or not I can take photos. While she’s on hold her colleague, Jane, offers me a chance to look inside one of the two cremators, both of which are running.

I’m not sure what I expect to see when I look through the cylindrical viewing glass. Perhaps a burning panel of wood or a thick wall of flames. Who knows? But judging by the weakening of my legs, I’m not expecting to see what is clearly the top of a human skull engulfed in fire.

I steady myself. “How…ah…how hot is it in there?” I mumble.

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A perfect funeral? Behind the scenes with a funeral director

Grave YardIt’s a cold December morning and I am giving a coffin a thorough inspection. “Do you see any dust there, Jason?” asks the man on the other side of the wooden box. “Because it has to look perfect.”

The man speaking to me is a funeral director (let’s call him Andy) and he is giving me a rare, behind-the-scenes look at a typical day at the office. And, as it quickly becomes clear, in Andy’s line of work perfection is the name of the game.

“On the day of the funeral, everything has to go right,” he tells me. “The family expect it. Which is why I do all of this preparation and checking now.”

And there is a lot of preparation and checking to do. Once a doctor has declared someone dead, the funeral director’s work begins. First, the body is transported – “removed” – to the funeral home so it can be stored and, if required, embalmed. Later it will be made to look as close to the family’s specifications as possible through the use of favorite clothes, a haircut and makeup. Then there are consultations with the family to agree on the date and details of the service, the type of coffin, the music, the readings, etc.

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