Glossary

Administrator:  Court-appointed person placed in charge of the estate of a person who passed on without a will.

Advance Health Care Directive: An advance health care directive, also known as a power of attorney for health care or health care proxy, is a written document signed by an individual, called the “principal”, in which the principal expresses his or her desires concerning their health care. In the document, the principal may also appoint someone as his agent to make health care decisions for him. A living will is a different form of advance directive, in which you can express your preferences for health care treatment. However, a living will does not allow you to appoint an agent to act in your behalf. In California, following the death of the principal the agent named in an advance health care directive, or durable power of attorney for health care, can authorize funeral arrangements including cremation, and the disposition of the principal’s remains.

Algor Mortis: Cooling of the body immediately after death to room temperature and temporary stiffening of the muscles.

Alternative Container: See “Cremation Container” A container which does not meet the standards of a burial casket and is used to hold human remains for cremation. It is usually made of heavy cardboard or chipboard.

Apportionment: Dividing cremated remains into portions for separate disposition. For example, a set of cremated remains could be divided into three portions, with one portion placed in an urn in a columbarium, another portion scattered in a favorite place, and yet another carried in a locket.

Apprentice: The name generally applied to an individual learning the embalming and funeral directing procedure under the supervision of a licensee.

Arrangement Conference: The meeting at the funeral home when funeral arrangements are made.

Arrangement Room: The funeral home room used by family members and the funeral director to make arrangements for the funeral service.

Ashes: See cremated remains.

Aspirate: To withdraw fluids and gases from the abdominal cavity.

Attorney in Fact:  Any person granted the power of attorney.

Autopsy:  Also known as Post-Mortem Examination, an autopsy is a critical external evaluation and surgical examination of someone who has passed away to determine the cause of death. This generally includes direct inspection of various tissues inside the body and possibly chemical testing of fluids contained within the body. There are certain circumstances where a local or county coroner will require an autopsy. An autopsy is typically required when a person’s cause of death is not known by a doctor or a person dies as a result of an accident or injury. Families might request a private autopsy when the deceased family member might have a medical condition that would affect other family members or future generations.

Background Drapes: Decorative drapes arranged on a frame and placed behind the casket as a background. Typically made of velour. Beneficiary Recipient of the proceeds of a will or insurance policy. Bequest Any gift of property made in a will. Bereaved The immediate family of the deceased.

Bier: A bier is a stand on which the decedent’s casket containing the deceased, is placed for a viewing, visitation, or service. A bier is sometimes used to carry the deceased to their grave. The modern funeral industry uses a collapsible aluminum bier on wheels, known as a "church truck" to move the casket to and from the church or mortuary for services.

Burial:  Also interment. The act of placing a deceased person into the ground in a burial casket, an underground tomb or an urn if the person was cremated. In some areas, such as Southern California, cemeteries require that the casket or urn be placed in a vault prior to burial.

Burial Case: See Casket.

Burial Permit (or certificate): Legal permission from local authorities for the burial to occur. It may also authorize cremation or removal of the remains to a distant place.

Burial Garments: Clothing made especially for the dead.

Burial Insurance: An insurance policy in which the principal is paid in funeral service and merchandise rather than cash. See funeral insurance.

Canopy: Also called a tent. A portable canvas shelter used to cover the grave area during a burial.

Care Center:  The location inside the mortuary where the deceased are cared for. The Care Center may include a refrigerated holding facility, an embalming room, and an area for dressing, cosmetizing, hair styling, and placing the deceased in a casket or alternative cremation container. The Care Center might also have a crematory.

Casket:  Also called a burial case. A container made of cardboard, wood, or metal that is used to house the remains of someone who has passed away and usually has an interior lining or bedding. 

Casket coach: A motor coach designed and used for the conveyance of the casketed remains from the place the funeral service is conducted to the cemetery. Also known as a Funeral Coach.

Casket Rack: A device that allows caskets to be placed one on top of the other for display purposes.

Casket Veil: A silk net or transparent casket covering for the purpose of keeping flies and insects away from the remains. Casketing Placing of the body in the casket upon completion of embalming, dressing and cosmetizing.

Catafalque: A stand for holding the casket in state during visitation and the funeral service.

Cenotaph: An empty tomb, monument or plaque erected in memory of a person whose remains lie elsewhere.

Certified Celebrant:  A person who has been specially trained to assist families in organizing, coordinating, and presenting a completely unique life celebration, ceremony, or memorial service that reflects the unique life of the person who has passed away. The celebrant offers innovative ideas for planning unique memorials, ceremonies, and celebrations and can also help coordinate the events with our Lighthouse Event Planner.

Celebration of Life: A unique gathering held to celebrate the life of the person who has passed away, rather than mourn a death; a positive and warmer remembrance. Depending on the circumstances of a person’s death, emotions may range from anguish (due to feeling the loss) to relief (at the final end of suffering for the deceased). Approaches on creating a tribute to a person’s life may also range from sad or somber to more celebratory and upbeat. People who desire a celebration of life are more oriented to focusing their tribute on celebrating the positive aspects of the life that was lived and less on being sad about having lost the person who passed.

Cemetery: A park-like place where a deceased person’s casketed remains may be placed in the ground (a grave) or in an above ground space called a crypt or mausoleum. A person’s cremated remains may be placed in the ground (a grave) or in an above ground space called a niche. 

Cenotaph: An empty tomb or monument erected in memory or a person buried elsewhere.

Ceremony: An event of significance performed on a special occasion such as the death of a loved one; signifies change and may mark a rite of passage.

Certified Copy of the Death Certificate: A certified duplicate of the death certificate which states that a person has passed away (there is only one original copy of the death certificate which is kept on file at the health department for record keeping). This document lists the official causes of death and is needed for closing out bank accounts, transferring ownership of vehicles, homes, and other items. It is also used for tracing family history (see also “Death Certificate”).

Chapel: A room inside the mortuary or funeral home which is used for holding religious and non-religious services, ceremonies, memorials, or celebrations of life.

Church Truck: A collapsible catafalque used for funerals.

Codicil:  An amendment to a will changing the original provisions.

Coffin: An English-style, wedge-shaped casket, usually with 6 sides. Like a casket, it is a container used to house the remains of a deceased person that is characterized by a narrower design towards the foot end.

Columbarium: A wall or free-standing structure that houses multiple niches or individual spaces for urns containing cremated remains. Columbaria (plural) may be built into an indoor or outdoor mausoleum or be a free-standing structure. Columbaria are most typically found in cemeteries but are also frequently located in churches.

Committal Service: The final portion of a funeral service in which some words or prayers are said just prior to the decedent being interred in their final resting place.

Companion Crypt/Companion Space/Companion Niche- A space in a mausoleum, burial ground or columbarium which is made for two caskets or two urns to be placed. 

Companion Urn- An urn which can hold the cremated remains of two people. 

Coroner- A public official whose duty it is to investigate the cause of death if the deceased had not been recently seen by a doctor, died as a result of an accident or injury, or if the death looks suspicious. The coroner has the right to step in and take over the decision about a person’s cause of death if they feel it is necessary. 

Cortege: Escorted funeral procession. See Funeral Procession.

Cosmetology: Using cosmetics to restore a lifelike appearance to the deceased. Usually done when there will be visitation.

Cot:  A stretcher-like carrier used to remove deceased persons from the place of death to the funeral home.

Cremated Remains: Also called ashes. The portion of a body remaining after cremation. For an adult this is about 6-8 pounds of bone fragments.

Cremation- California law defines the process as: "The human body burns with the casket, container, or other material in the cremation chamber. Some bone fragments are not combustible at the incineration temperature and, as a result, remain in the cremation chamber. During the cremation, the contents of the chamber may be moved to facilitate incineration. The chamber is composed of ceramic or other material which disintegrates slightly during each cremation and the product of that disintegration is comingled with the cremated remains. Nearly all of the contents of the cremation chamber, consisting of the cremated remains, disintegrated chamber material and small amounts of residue from previous cremations, are removed together and crushed, pulverized, or ground to facilitate inurnment or scattering. Some residue remains in the cracks and uneven places of the chamber. Periodically, the accumulation of this residue is removed and interred in a dedicated cemetery property, or scattered at sea." 

Cremation Container- Also known as an alternative container. It is a container that can be purchased to house the remains of a decedent prior to cremation; this would be a simpler type of casket. If you want to arrange a direct cremation, you can use an alternative container. Alternative containers encase the body and can be made of materials like fiberboard or composition materials (with or without an outside covering). The containers we provide are alternative containers and other cremation containers, including containers made of wood, containers made of fiberboard and containers made of other composite materials. A casket made of combustible materials or wood can also be used for cremation. 

Cremation Permit: A certificate issued by the local authority authorizing cremation of the deceased.

Crematory/Crematorium- A building or room that houses one or more cremation chambers/cremation retorts. These are specially-designed furnaces used to cremate human remains. 

Crypt – In Europe, a stone chamber or vault beneath the floor of a church that houses a deceased person’s remains. In California, most typically a space in an indoor or outdoor mausoleum building used for the entombment of one or more casketed human remains. 

Death Certificate- A legal document that is issued by the county health department which states the date, location and causes of a person’s death and is kept on file at the county health department. Before a deceased person can be cremated and/or placed in a cemetery, a death certificate must be certified by a local health department. The mortuary or funeral home works with the certifying doctor or coroner’s office to help complete the death certificate and then files it with the health department. The health department has the final authority to determine whether or not a cause of death is legally acceptable or valid. In California, and in many places around the country, this process is accomplished electronically on the internet (see also “Certified Copy of the Death Certificate”). 

Death Notice: A paragraph in the relevant section of the newspaper informing people of a person's death and giving those funeral details the survivors wish published. Most list the names of the deceased person's close relatives.

Deceased: The termination of the biological life functions in a living organism; a person who is no longer living. If a person is in a hospital, skilled nursing facility, or other care facility, a nurse or doctor will usually determine that a person has died. In California, if a person dies at home or another location, the police should be called if it appears that death was caused due to an accident, injury or if the cause of death is completely unknown. For someone who has been under either a doctor’s care or on hospice care, it is not necessarily required that the death be pronounced by a medical professional. In many instances, hospice offers to handle pronouncing the death to relieve the family and friends from this responsibility.

Decedent: A person who is no longer living. See also “Deceased.”

Disinter: Also Exhume. To remove a deceased person from their place of burial. This is done for various reasons: to re-examine the causes of death or to take the deceased to a different cemetery or plot.

Disposition: This refers to what will ultimately be done with the deceased person and where their final resting place will be, i.e.: cemetery placement or cremation? Which cemetery will the casket or urn be taken to? Will the cremated remains be placed in a cemetery, scattered, or kept at home for a period of time?

Disposition Permit:  A legal document authorizing cemetery placement or cremation of a deceased person and states the final place of disposition.

Display room: The room in a funeral home or cemetery where caskets, urns, memorial plaques and other funeral and memorial related materials are displayed.

Door Badge: A floral arrangement placed on a door of a residence to announce that a death has occurred.

DPOA: See “Advance Health Care Directive.”

Embalm: The process of temporarily preserving a deceased person by circulating preservatives and antiseptic fluids through the person’s veins and arteries. Depending on the condition of the body, embalming processes may also include trauma or autopsy repair and other topical or external preservative treatments. In California, embalming is not required by law but is typically required by funeral homes or mortuaries if the decedent is going to be viewed publicly, or for an extended period of time. Embalming may not be required for brief private viewings.

Embalmer: A person who has been specially trained and licensed to care for, cleanse and preserve a deceased person with preservative and disinfectant fluids; this person is also skilled in applying cosmetics, hair dressing, dressing, and restorative arts.

Embalming: The process of preserving a dead body by means of circulating preservative and antiseptic through the veins and arteries.

Embalming Fluid: Liquid chemicals used in preserving a dead body.

Embalming Table:  An operating table usually constructed of metal with a porcelain surface upon which remains are placed for embalming.

Entombment: To place casketed remains in a mausoleum or above ground interment space.

Escorted Funeral Procession: A ceremonial and practical method of driving from a funeral ceremony (at a church or mortuary) to the cemetery. To many people, this is a highly valued ceremonial aspect of services. Additionally, this is a practical method of making sure that everyone is moved in an organized way from the service and arrives at the cemetery at the same time so graveside services can begin. Typically, the funeral coach, or hearse, carrying the decedent is followed by limousines or family cars and then by other attendees. The procession is escorted through traffic signals by specially trained motorcycle escorts. 

Eulogy: A well-crafted speech or spoken tribute given at a funeral service or event in honor of a person who has passed away. This speech may include many aspects of a person’s life: birth places, family life, funny and memorable stories, phrases the person used to say, hobbies and life accomplishments. The best eulogies are factual, honest, respectful, heart-felt and relatively concise. Eulogies can include a poem or song and do not necessarily need to be a complete biography. Instead, you might try telling your story about your relationship with the deceased and how he/she affected your life. 

Other eulogy ideas- establish a brief history; recap and honor family members and personal and important relationships; review important times and influences during their life: marriages, births, school achievements, etc.; collect and present memories from family and friends as well as your own memories; recite a favorite poem, prayer, song, or saying.

Exhume: See Disinter.

Family Car: A limousine used by immediate family in the funeral procession.

Family Room: A room in the funeral home where the family can have privacy at the time of the funeral.

Final Disposition: The last process the remains go through, for example burial, cremation, burial of cremated remains.

Final Rites: The funeral service.

First Call: The funeral director's first visit to the place of death in order to remove the remains and obtain any information which is needed immediately.

Flower Car: Vehicle used to transport flowers from the funeral home to the church and/or cemetery.

Funeral:  A funeral is a ceremony for celebrating, sanctifying, or remembering the life of a person who has died. Funerary customs comprise the complex of beliefs and practices used by a culture to remember the dead, from interment itself, to various monuments, prayers, and rituals undertaken in their honor. Customs vary widely between cultures, and between religious affiliations within cultures.

Funeral Coach: Also casket coach or hearse. Motor vehicle designed to convey the casket from the funeral service to the place of burial in the cemetery.

Funeral Arrangements: A conference between the deceased's family and the ~funeral director where the details of the funeral and relevant finances are finalized.

Funeral Director: Also mortician, undertaker. A trained and certified professional who arranges and supervises the burial or cremation of human remains.

Funeral Home: A building used for embalming or otherwise preparing human remains for final disposition and for arranging and conducting funeral services.

Funeral Insurance: Also burial insurance. An insurance policy, normally written for a small amount, which provides money for a funeral upon the death of the person insured.

Funeral Procession: A procession, usually in motor vehicles, from the church or chapel to the cemetery.

Funeral Service: Also final rites. The rites conducted immediately before final disposition of the dead body.

Funeral Spray: A floral tribute sent in memory of the deceased to their residence or to the funeral.

Funeral Trust: See Prearranged funeral trust.

Grave: A hole excavated in the ground for the purposes of burial.

Grave Liner: A receptacle made of concrete, metal, plastic or wood used to line the grave to protect the remains and to prevent the grave from collapsing.

Grave Marker: See Memorial marker.

Green Burial:  Also called direct burial. The process of burying a body without the use of chemical preservation in a simple container to help preserve the earth.

Hearse: See Casket coach.

Honorary Pallbearers: Friends, or members of a religious, social, fraternal or military organization, who act as an honor guard or escort for the deceased. They do not carry the casket.

In state: See Viewing.

Inquest: An official inquiry, sometimes before a jury, to determine the cause of death.

Inter: To bury in a grave or tomb.

Interment: See Burial.

Inurnment: Placing cremated remains in an urn.

Lead Car: The car leading the funeral procession.

Mausoleum: A building containing above-ground tombs or crypts.

Liabilities: Remaining debts and mortgages, as they apply to the administering of an estate.

License : An authorization from the state granting permission to perform duties which, without such permission, would be illegal.

Life Insurance Trust: A trust funded from money provided from life insurance.

Limousine: An automobile designed to seat five or more persons behind the driver's seat.

Living Trust: A trust that has been established during the life of the trustee.

Living Will: A legal document that details the wishes of an individual concerning his or her medical care, especially with respect to life-sustaining technology and resuscitation.

Lowering Device: A mechanism used for lowering casket into the grave.

Mausoleum: A building containing above-ground tombs or crypts.

Medical Examiner: A government official whose function is to perform autopsies on bodies dead from violence, suicide, crime, etc., and to investigate circumstances of death.

Memorial Marker: A marker used to identify a grave, crypt, urn placement site or other place of final disposition. Permanent markers are usually of metal or stone and give the name of the deceased, their dates of birth and death, and sometimes a sentimental message.

Memorial Service: A service conducted in memory of the deceased when the remains are not present.

Minister's Room: A room in the funeral home set aside for the use of the clergy person or officiant before and after a funeral service.

Morgue: A place where human remains are kept pending autopsy or identification.

Mortician: See Funeral director.

Mortuary: See Funeral home.

Mourner: Someone who is present at the funeral out of love and/or respect for the deceased.

Niche: A hollow space in a wall made for placing urns. It may be indoors or outdoors.

Niche Garden: An outdoor garden containing structures with niches.

Obituary: The short article in the newspaper that announces the death to the community, summarizes the person's life and invites readers to attend the funeral. Usually the funeral director will handle submitting the pertinent information to the newspaper. Some newspapers, however, allow families to write more personalized obituaries.

Opening and Closing Fees: Cemetery fees for the digging and refilling of a grave.

Pallbearers: The people who carry the casket for the funeral service. Traditionally, the six pallbearers are male, it is also appropriate to honor women as pallbearers. If there are more friends than are needed (or friends who are unable to carry the heavy casket), make then honorary pallbearers.

Perpetual Care Trust Funds:  A portion of the burial plot cost set aside in a trust fund for its ongoing care. 

Plot:  A privately-owned piece of ground in a cemetery which contains two or more grave sites.

Prearranged Funeral: A funeral which has been arranged and paid for before the person's death.

Prearranged Funeral Trust: A trust fund where money for prearranged funerals is held until needed. In most States trusts are established under State law and/or supervision.

Pre-planning / Pre-need: Arranging of all aspects of a funeral-especially financing-prior to one's death.

Preparation Room: A specially-designed room in the funeral home equipped for preparing the deceased for final disposition.

Preparation Table:  An operating table located in the preparation room upon which the body is placed for embalming and dressing.

Procession: See Funeral procession.

Register: A book containing details about the deceased and the funeral service which can be signed by all those attending. It is then given to the immediate family.

Remains: The dead body of the deceased person.

Reposing Room: See Visitation room.

Restorative Art: The process of restoring distorted features on the deceased by using wax, creams, plaster, etc.

Right of Survivorship: Occurs when a joint property owner has provided for the passing of all property into the hands of the surviving joint owner.

Rigor Mortis: Cooling of the body and rigidity of the muscles that occurs after death.

Service Car: A vehicle belonging to the funeral home or cemetery and used to transport chairs, flower stands, etc.

Slumber Room: A room containing a bed on which the deceased lies until being placed in a casket. In some cases the deceased my lie in state in the slumber room.

Spiritual Banquet:  A Roman Catholic practice involving specific prayers, such as Masses and Rosaries.

Survivors: Those who have outlived the deceased, especially family members.

Tent: See canopy.

Testator: A person making a valid will.

Tomb: A chamber excavated from earth or rock specifically for receiving human remains.

Trade Embalmer:  A licensed embalmer who is not employed by one specific funeral home, but performs the services for multiple homes.

Transit Permit: A permit issued by a local authority allowing a body to be transported to the place of burial or cremation.

Undertaker: See Funeral director.

Urn: A container specially designed for holding the cremated body. Urns can be engraved or customized to reflect the personality of a loved one. Smaller urns, called keepsakes, have been created to hold only a portion of the cremated body. This allows several family members to retain the cremated body of loved ones.

Urn Garden: A garden containing urn burial sites and frequently niches also.

Urn Placement: Permanent placing of an urn into a niche or urn burial site.

Vault: (1) A burial chamber which is underground or partly so. (2) A metal or concrete container for the casket. A concrete or metal container into which the casket is placed before burial at a cemetery. Most cemeteries require vaults because they stabilize the gravesite, preventing the earth from settling above the casket.

Viewing: Making the deceased available to be visited and seen by relatives and friends before or after the funeral service.

Vigil: A Roman Catholic religious service held on the eve of the funeral service.

Visitation: Visitation is a scheduled time for family and friends to see the person who died, perhaps for the final time. Viewing the body often helps families acknowledge the reality of the death and grants them the privilege of saying goodbye.

Visitation Room: A room in a funeral home where the body lies in state before the funeral service so that people may view the deceased and spend time with other survivors.

Wake: (1) A watch kept over the deceased the night before the funeral service. (2) Social activities such as feasting and dancing associated with some funeral traditions.

Will:  A legal document stating the intentions of the deceased concerning the dispersal of their belongings, the care of their remains and other relevant issues.