Learn the Terms
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There is a lot to learn about funerals, regardless of what you choose to include in them, so the best place to start is with definitions. We welcome contributions to the following lists to help us inform the people of Oregon about their options with a full understanding of what they entail. Send us a note on our Contact page. Thanks!
Final Disposition Options That Are Legal in Oregon
- Alkaline Hydrolysis – Also called Aqua Cremation, Water Cremation, Biocremation, Flameless Cremation, or Resomation, uses water and an alkali solution of potassium hydroxide to dissolve the body within several hours, leaving behind bone fragments and a sterile liquid. The bone fragments are typically ground to a powder similar to cremated remains.
- Body/ Organ/ Tissue Donation – When arrangements have been made to donate the whole body or organs or tissue, any remains are cremated by the medical facility and those cremated remains may be returned to the next-of-kin or a designated funeral director at a future time at no cost to the family.
- Burial - Synonymous with Interment, the placing of human remains.
- Final Disposition - The act of “laying human remains to rest”; methods may include earth burial, entombment in a crypt, cremation, etc… Oregon Administrative Rules (2019 Edition) defines “Disposition” as final disposition by burial, entombment, burial at sea, cremation, removal from the state, dissolution or other alternative disposition as authorized by board rule.” OR Admin. Rule 830-011-0000(20).
- See the Green Burial Council's Other Disposition Options for science-based environmental assessments.
Types of Burial/Interment
- Burial at Sea - Regulated by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, uncremated remains must be buried no closer than three nautical miles from land in water at least 600 feet deep. Furthermore, the rule requires that “[a]ll necessary measures shall be taken to ensure that the remains sink to the bottom rapidly and permanently.” Information about the burial must be reported to the EPA Regional Administrator within 30 days of the burial. (40 C.F.R. § 229.1(a)(2)
- Direct or Immediate Burial - When the deceased is buried with no viewing or service of any kind. Family is not present at the cemetery.
- Double Depth Burial - Two caskets are buried within the same grave stacked upon one another.
- Entombment - Burial in a mausoleum.
- Green Burial - Also called Natural Burial, burial of an unembalmed body in a biodegradable shroud or casket without vaults/grave liners to allow natural decomposition of the body and cause the least amount of environmental damage.
- Home Burial - In Oregon, you can bury a body on your own land if you: 1) own the property; 2) get written consent from the local governing body or planning commission; 3) keep records of all bodies if the governing authority requires it and 4) disclose the burials to any new owners if you sell the property. ORS 97.460.
- Inurnment - The placing of cremated remains in an urn inside a niche.
- Natural Burial – See Green Burial.
- Cemetery - Grounds dedicated to the burial and memorialization of human remains.
- Disinterment – Also called exhumation, the removal of human remains from the ground.
Types of Cemeteries
- Commercial Cemetery – A cemetery owned by a for-profit corporation.
- Conservation Burial Ground - A type of natural cemetery that is established in partnership with a conservation organization and includes a conservation management plan that upholds best practices and provides perpetual protection of the land according to a conservation easement or deed restriction.
- Conventional Cemetery - A cemetery that requires the use of a concrete or fiberglass grave liner and a hard-bottom casket; also known as a “lawn cemetery” or a “modern cemetery.” Prior to the establishment of modern cemeteries, most burial occurred in churchyards or on family land and was environmentally friendly. Modern cemetery requirements are dictated by “convention” rather than law.
- Green Burial - A way of caring for the dead with minimal environmental impact that aids in the conservation of natural resources, reduction of carbon emissions, protection of worker health, and the restoration and/or preservation of habitat. Green burial necessitates the use of non-toxic and biodegradable materials, such as caskets, shrouds, and urns.
- Historic Cemetery - Cemeteries that harbor cultural significance and historic individuals from the past. Usually non-profit and closed to new burials. Under ORS 97.772, “Historic Cemetery” means any burial place that contains the remains of one or more persons who died before February 14, 1909. Must be listed with the Oregon Commission on Historic Cemeteries.
- Hybrid Cemetery - A burial site where both green/natural and conventional burials occur.
- Municipal Cemetery - Burial grounds that are owned and maintained by a city or county governing body; operation may be contracted out to a commercial funeral services provider.
- Natural Cemetery - A cemetery dedicated in full to sustainable practices/ protocols that conserve energy, minimize waste, and do not allow the use of toxic chemicals, any part of a vault (lid, slab or partitioned liner), markers made of natural stone, and burial containers not made from natural/plant derived materials
- Non-Profit Cemetery – A cemetery owned by a non-profit corporation or a local government.
- Religious Cemetery - A cemetery owned by a religious group or establishment.
- Unregistered Cemetery - A cemetery that is not registered with the Oregon State Mortuary and Cemetery Board. Most cemeteries are required to apply to OMCB for a certificate of authority, however some cemeteries are exempt from this requirement. (ORS692.275 (2) A cemetery, other than an operating cemetery or a historic cemetery, listed with the Oregon Commission on Historic Cemeteries under ORS 97.7823, must be registered with the board.)
- Veterans Cemetery - Burial grounds dedicated to the interment of Veterans. DD214 is the military discharge document necessary to schedule interment at a National Cemetery. Veteran benefits are for interment of the veteran, his or her spouse, and any dependent children who might die prior to or following the death of a veteran. If the veteran doesn’t have this form, it can be ordered online but takes about 6 weeks to order.
- Cremation - The reduction of human remains to bone fragments through intense heat produced by a specialized furnace called a “retort” and processing the resulting bone fragments to a uniform size and consistency often called “ashes” or “cremains.” The remains can be kept in the home, buried or placed in a crypt or niche in a cemetery, or buried or scattered in a favorite spot.
- Cremains - An industry term used in place of "cremated remains" to refer to the crushed bone mixture that results from a cremation.
- Crematory - The actual facility in which the act of cremation occurs.
- Direct (or Simple) Cremation - Cremation carried out without embalming, a viewing or service.
- Witnessed Cremation – When family or community are present at the crematory during the time of cremation, with the option of assisting with the placement of the body and starting the machine. Not supported by all crematories; those offering this option may charge an additional fee. (See also Ceremonies.)
Types of Ceremonies
- Blended Funerals - Funerals that combine conventional funeral practices with home funeral and/or green burial practices; may include the use of a funeral director for certain aspects of care, such as obtaining, completing and filing paperwork or transporting the body. Families may have a home funeral without having a green burial and visa versa. Blended funerals offer families more options, especially when certain options are not available in their area.
- Calling Hours - Also known as Visitation, Viewing, Wake; the time for friends and family to gather in the presence of the body of the deceased.
- Celebration of Life - See Memorial Service.
- Committal Service - The part of the burial process where the body is lowered into the ground or cremated remains are buried or scattered; in some religions, there are prayers specific to the committal of the body.
- Death Care - Synonymous with After Death Care, in this context refers to the functions, tasks, and possibly services needed once death has occurred, including the legal/ paperwork requirements, and how the body is handled, transported, and prepared for final disposition. See also Death Care Industry.
- Funeral - A service commemorating the deceased, with the body or cremated remains present.
- Graveside Service - A service to commemorate the deceased held at the place of burial.
- Home Funeral - A family- or community-centered response to death and after-death care. Families and communities may play a key role in: planning and carrying out after-death rituals or ceremonies, such as laying out the deceased and home visitation of the body; preparing the body for burial or cremation; filing paperwork, such as the death certificate and burial transit permit; transporting the deceased to the place of burial or cremation; facilitating the final disposition, such as digging the grave at a natural burial. Home funerals may occur within the family home or elsewhere, such as nursing homes or hospitals. The emphasis is on encouraging the family to provide care of the body through minimally invasive and environmentally-friendly practices. Blended Funeral is a term used in the home funeral movement to refer to hiring a professional for certain aspects such as filing paperwork or transportation.
- Memorial Service - Also called a Celebration of Life, a ceremony commemorating the deceased, without the body present.
- Repast - A post-funeral or memorial meal, often with friends and family.
- Full-Service Funeral - Also called Traditional Funeral by the industry, usually includes a viewing or visitation of an embalmed body with formal funeral service, use of a hearse to transport the body to the funeral site and cemetery, and burial, entombment or cremation of the remains.
- Viewing/ Vigil/ Wake - A time for friends and family to gather in the presence of the body of the deceased.
- Witnessed Cremation - When family or community are present at the crematory during the time of cremation, with the option of assisting with the placement of the body and starting the machine. Not supported by all crematories; those offering this option may charge an additional fee. See also Ceremonies.
Types of Helpers, Paid and Unpaid
- Casket Bearers - Also known as Pall Bearers; individuals whose duty is to carry the casket or lowering board during the funeral or graveside service.
- Celebrant - A trained professional, or a family member or friend, who composes and officiates personalized funerals and memorial services, typically in place of a clergy person.
- Chaplain/ Clergy - A ceremony officiant affiliated with a religious faith or organization.
- Death Care Consultant - Licensed by the Mortuary and Cemetery Board. A death care consultant is an individual who, for payment, provides consultations related to funeral or final disposition arrangements to the person or persons who are acting as a funeral service practitioner under ORS Chapter 432. For purposes of this definition, the consultations include any conference, information, guidance or advice either at the time of death or when the death is soon to occur. OR Admin. Rule 830-011-0000 (17).
- Death Care Industry - Until recently, synonymous with Funeral Industry, referring to the range of commercial products and services sold by and through funeral homes, along with funeral homes, cemeteries, crematories, and wholesale providers of goods and services. Now the death care industry includes a new generation of products and services aiming to “disrupt” and modernize the industry with both high tech and purportedly eco-friendlier consumer options.
- Delegated Authority - All adults have the right to name an individual to carry out their wishes or to delegate the authority to do so to someone else. This delegated authority needs to be made in writing and can be done in a Will, a Health Care Directive, or other document. ORS 97.130. This person does not have to be a professional such as a Funeral Director, Home Funeral Guide, but can include an unpaid Person Acting as a Funeral Service Practitioner (see below).
- End-of-Life Doula - EOLDs provide non-medical, non-judgmental support and guidance to individuals and families through education and guidance, sometimes including physical, emotional, and spiritual care
- Family Service Advisors - The cemetery sales staff who make arrangements related to cemetery interment including selecting the plot or niche, selling the interment rights, headstone, opening & closing fees.
- Funeral Director/ Mortician/ Undertaker - Known in Oregon law as a Funeral Service Practitioner, these are the common terms for a licensed professional who takes care of the dead. This profession is licensed and supervised by the State Mortuary and Cemetery Board.
- Funeral Home/ Mortuary - A regulated commercial facility where the bodies of the deceased are prepared for ceremony and final disposition; may have on-site cremation or may contract with an off-site crematory/ crematorium.
- Funeral Service Practitioner - More commonly known as a Funeral Director, this is the legal term in Oregon for any individual engaged directly or indirectly in offering funeral services for payment or supervising or otherwise controlling the transportation, care, preparation, processing and handling of dead human bodies before the bodies undergo final disposition, or before the bodies are transported out of the State of Oregon.
- Home Funeral Guide - Guides are trained to educate families and others through legal processes and procedures, death certificate filing and permit acquisition, body care and logistics, ritual opportunities, finding community resources, local products and services, ceremony design, home preparation, and whatever is needed for a family-directed home funeral.
- Medical Examiner - Also known as a coroner, charged with investigating and maintaining a file on every death that happens in Oregon under specific circumstances: homicide, suicide, accident, drug overdose, deaths in state custody, deaths on-the-job, or natural deaths occurring while not under medical care. Each county has its own Medical Examiner, under the technical supervision of the State Medical Examiner.
- Oregon Mortuary and Cemetery Board - State agency that supervises and licenses death care professionals and facilities such as funeral directors, funeral homes, cemeteries, crematoriums, and mortuaries; handles investigations into alleged misconduct by death care professionals and facilities.
- Person Acting as a Funeral Service Practitioner 432.005(23) “Person acting as a funeral service practitioner” not limited to a relative, friend or other interested party, who performs the duties of a funeral service practitioner without payment. This person does not have to be a “Delegated Authority” (see above) named by the deceased. The Delegated Authority can hire a funeral director or ask someone else to be the “Person Acting as a Funeral Service Practitioner.”
- Registrar - Also known as County Registrar or County Clerk, the local agency where families handling paperwork without a funeral director must file the 24-hour notice of death and death certificate.
- Sexton – Traditionally understood as a person who looks after a church and churchyard, sometimes acting as bell-ringer and formerly as a gravedigger, the meaning is broader when used by the State of Oregon on the portion of the Death Certificate that serves as the Disposition Permit, which requires a “sexton’s signature”. In this case Sexton refers to the person in charge of the place of disposition, which could be a cemetery operator, a crematory operator if cremating, a private property owner if burying at home, or a ship captain if burying at sea.
- Vital Statistics - Also known as Oregon Health Authority Center for Health Statistics, the state agency in charge of creating “death certificates” and keeping records of all births and deaths in Oregon. Families wishing to handle death-related paperwork (filing the 24-hour death notice and the death certificate) without hiring a funeral director must contact the Oregon Health Authority’s Center for Health Statistics Registration Unit Manager (971-673-1160) to request what is referred to as a “Home Burial Packet”. This packet includes a paper death certificate with filing instructions. (Note: handling paperwork and transportation does not obligate the family to do a home burial.)
Products and Services
- Alternative Container - An unfinished wood box or other non-metal receptacle without ornamentation, often made of fiberboard, pressed wood, or composition materials, and generally lower in cost than caskets.
- Burial Permit - Also known as Disposition Permit, in Oregon, this is generated as part of the Death Certificate.
- Cremation Permit - Also known as Disposition Permit, in Oregon, this is generated as part of the Death Certificate.
- Cash advances - Costs that a Funeral Home may incur on behalf of a client which will be included in the fees charged to the client, such as clergy fee, obituary, or cemetery fees.
- Casket - Also called a coffin, a box that contains the deceased body; can be made of fibers like seagrass or willow, wood, metal, fiberglass, or cardboard. Use of a casket is not mandated by Oregon law but may be required by a cemetery.
- Cemetery Property - A grave, crypt, or niche.
- Cemetery Services - Opening and closing graves, crypts or niches; setting grave liners and vaults; setting markers; and long-term maintenance of cemetery grounds and facilities.
- Columbarium - A structure with niches (small spaces) for placing cremated remains in urns or other approved containers; may be outdoors or part of a mausoleum.
- Community Mausoleum - An above ground structure that memorializes multiple individuals from various families.
- Companion Plot - A ground burial for two caskets for the remains of two individuals. Two plots are sold together either side-by-side or stacked (one on top of the other).
- Cremation Casket - A box, typically cardboard, that holds the body before and during cremation.
- Cremation Garden - A designated area within a cemetery where cremated remains are buried or scattered.
- Cremation Plot - An in-ground space that holds an urn with the cremated remains of an individual.
- Crypt - A space in a mausoleum or other building to hold cremated or whole remains.
- End-to-End Crypts - An entombment space within a Mausoleum that contains the casketed remains of two individuals in an end-to-end fashion.
- Endowment Care Fund - Money collected from cemetery property purchasers and placed in trust for the maintenance and upkeep of the cemetery.
- Family Plot - A family can purchase and designate an area for use by only their family members. They are typically delineated by a single family headstone but each individual may have his/her own headstone.
- Funeral Services - Services provided by a funeral director and staff, which may include consulting with the family on funeral planning; transportation, shelter, refrigeration and embalming of remains; preparing and filing notices; obtaining authorizations and permits; and coordinating with the cemetery, crematory or other third parties.
- General Price List - A written price list which is required to be given to the consumer when funeral costs are discussed.
- Grave - The designated space in the ground that receives the remains of a person.
- Grave Depression - A furrow or sink-hole in the ground directly over a grave, caused by the deterioration of the coffin over time.
- Grave Mound - Historically, the accumulated earth on top of a grave displaced by the burial, more common now in Green/ Natural Burial grounds than conventionally landscaped cemeteries.
- Grave Liner or Vault – A concrete or metal box, also known as an Outer Burial Container, where the casket or urn is placed; not required by law, but most cemeteries require them to maintain their park-like setting.
- Headstone - Also known as a Gravestone, a marker placed on the grave indicating the identity of the interred.
- Interment Right - Cemeteries don’t sell the actual ownership of graves and plots and niches; they sell a contractual right to be interred (buried or placed) in the property which remains under the cemetery’s ownership. This means you do not own the land or have ownership rights - you buy an easement or license to use the land for the purpose of housing human remains.
- Mausoleum - Above-ground structures in which remains are buried or entombed. Private Mausoleum - An above ground structure that is reserved for the entombment of a single family.
- Memorial - Any object or identifier used to commemorate the deceased including monuments and markers.
- Memorial Book - A guest book signed as a record of those present at visitation or funeral or memorial services.
- Niche - A space in a columbarium, mausoleum or niche wall to hold an urn.
- Obituary - A notice detailing the life lived and service arrangements. Once offered as a public service, many newspapers now charge for their publication; crematories and funeral homes typically provide free listings on their web sites and some families now choose to post an obituary only through social media.
- Opening and Closing - Typically performed by cemetery staff, opening and closing refers to the digging of the earth or opening of the mausoleum crypt and other preparations for interment of human remains as well as the filling in of the grave or closing/locking of the crypt once the casket or urn has been successfully interred. Most cemeteries will permit interested families to assist with the filling in, i.e., closing of the grave if arranged in advance.
- Outer Burial Container - See Grave Liner.
- Perpetual Care - Money set aside to fund the continued care and maintenance of cemetery grounds.
- Plot - A designated section of land within a cemetery for which a right of interment can be purchased. A single grave or many can make up a single plot.
- Pre-Need - Arranging burial proceedings and/or making funeral arrangements and/or purchasing interment rights in a cemetery before a death has occurred.
- Shroud - A cloth wrapping for the body of the deceased, may be a simple sheet or piece of fabric, or a cloth sewn for this purpose, possibly with lowering straps or a backboard built in to facilitate movement of the shrouded body. A lowering board, also called a shrouding board, may be used to carry and/or lower a shrouded body where straps or backboard aren’t built in.
- The Funeral Rule - A Federal Trade Commission rule which grants consumers the right to know fees and costs.
- Right of Interment - See Interment Right.
- Urn - A container to hold cremated remains. It can be kept at home, placed in a columbarium or mausoleum, or buried in the ground.
- Vault - See Grave Liner.