For centuries North American traditionally buried their dead.
But increases in life-span, environmental awareness, and concern about cost have encouraged more and more modern Americans to return to dust as most Native Americans, Hindus, and Buddhists do, through cremation.
In North America, now one third of people are opting for cremation. In countries such as England and Japan up to 90% of the population chooses cremation.
The body is put into a heated chamber where it is disintegrated into bone fragments. They are then ground into granule form. The process takes about 3 to 5 hours. The temperature ranges from 1400 to 2100 degrees Fahrenheit or 760 to 1150 Celsius. The fragments are "the remains" weighing between 4 and 8 lbs. If finely processed, the texture is like coarse sand.
Even though they are referred to as ashes, they do not blow in the wind as the name implies. You may store them in an urn, or scatter some or all of them. Some areas have laws about scattering ashes on public properties so it is a good idea to check. However, your own property is fine. The remains pose absolutely no health risk and can be handled without fear of germs or disease.
Cost of cremation is approximately $1000 to $1500 - significantly cheaper than a traditional funeral. You can have whatever combination of funeral you like; tradition farewell with a rented coffin, and then a cremation to follow.
"Burn what is left of me and scatter the ashes to the wind
to help the flowers grow.
If you must bury something, let it be my faults, my weaknesses,
and all my prejudice against my fellow man.
Give my soul to God.
If by chance you wish to remember me,
do it with a kind deed or word to someone who needs you.
If yo do all I have asked, I will live forever."
- Author Unknown
Here is a sample service for scattering ashes.