By definition, cremation is the process of reducing the body to bone fragments through the application of a thermal and a mechanical process. Today there is a large trend to be cremated, but what does that mean? Does it mean having some kind of ritual or memorial service, or not? Does it mean being buried, scattered, or both being buried and scattered? Does it mean using your local funeral home, or a cremation service provider? Where does the cremation take place? Let’s look into this more closely.

In Maine, there are many guidelines that cremation providers must follow. For instance, there is a 48-hour wait requirement from the time of death before the cremation can be completed. One common misconception is that we take the remains directly from the place of passing to the crematory. Prior to a loved one’s cremation, a good question to ask may be, “Where is my loved one being held?” For instance, at Brookings-Smith, we hold the remains in refrigeration for the 48-hour grace period.

Another requirement is that the next of kin needs to sign a cremation authorization form which discloses the procedures of the crematory. So it is important to have your closest next of kin know your wishes. If you have no next of kin, a suggestion is to have this form signed in advance so your friends will know your clear directive—that you wish to be cremated.

Many people say things like “just cremate me,” or “all I want is a cremation.” Cremation is simply a means of final disposition, not a form of a ritual. We encourage people to try to identify what their needs or wants may be in terms of a ritual. Is it having a service or some kind of gathering with family and friends, or something more structured with music, rituals, and poems? A funeral or a memorial is about the person who passed, but it is for their survivors. Does being cremated also mean being buried? Burial is not a requirement, although we would encourage a final resting place for the survivors to visit. These can be very difficult decisions for surviving loved ones who have not really thought it through.

Both funeral homes and cremation providers help surviving families with cremation today. Many people use funeral providers so that they can help with things like viewings before cremation, the obituary, a place for memorialization, as well as maybe even a reception. Funeral homes offer a wide range of services and merchandise to consider.

There are also direct cremation providers. “Direct cremation” means having cremation completed without any viewing or memorialization. Some of these providers are affiliated with a funeral home. In our case, Memorial Alternative Cremation Services is affiliated with Brookings-Smith. This is important information for several reasons. We do not know when or how we will die and we may need additional help from a professional funeral provider. If you are considering preplanning and/or prepaying your funeral plan, making sure you are using a firm with a good reputation should be a must. We have experienced many families that have initially wanted basic direct cremation services but, after the passing has happened, they realized they needed more. Being affiliated with a firm that has the ability to help with memorialization could be important.

Also, using a local firm helps with the initial call at the time of passing. If the passing happened at home, it may take hours for a provider to be there. We recommend that you fully check out the services that direct cremation providers offer—they are not all the same. Some important questions to consider are: do they allow for a viewing? Do they help with an obituary or getting death certificates? Do they help with veterans benefits? Do they have a place for memorialization? Having worked with families for many years, it is one thing to think about how the passing may go – but it is another thing to experience a death. Because this can be such an emotional time, sometimes needs change and families need a firm that can help meet those needs.

Many people want to know where the cremation will happen. This facility is called a “crematorium” and each one has its own set of rules and standards. Does the crematory allow for you to be present to witness their operation and to see firsthand their procedures that give dignity to your loved one? Through Brookings-Smith, we operate Pine Grove Crematorium in Bangor. We have found many families want to be present, as it gives peace of mind knowing that we are overseeing their loved one and can see the process all the way through. Another question is often where one can pick up the cremated remains. At Pine Grove Crematorium, you can pick them up right at the facility. We welcome people to come to our Cremation Workshops for a complete tour of our facility and all the safeguards we have put into effect to achieve the highest standards possible.

People have many concerns and questions about cremation. The staff at Brookings-Smith are the true cremation professionals. Please call with any questions or concerns or to make a no-obligation appointment to see us to discuss your cremation plans. We would appreciate your time to discuss anything from a basic direct cremation, to a very detailed celebration of life memorial.

Brookings-Smith Funeral Home is a family owned and operated funeral home providing the greater Bangor area with complete mortuary services. For more information, visit