An Age-Old Tradition Growing in Popularity
As cremation continues its dramatic growth in popularity across North America, families are discovering that their options for what, exactly, to do with the ashes are also growing quickly. While many surprising new ideas for disposing of cremation ashes have come about in recent years, scattering ashes remains a particularly popular idea. And even that tradition has some interesting new twists.
For decades, ship captains and companies that specialize in spreading ashes at sea (also known as sea burial) have been available for hire for families who want a scattering ceremony at sea – often in place of a traditional funeral ceremony. This practice has become so popular that, today, special floating “biodegradable cremation urns” are available for such services. These urns are specifically designed to float for a few minutes and then slowly sink to the bottom of the sea, where they will degrade in a few days and allow the ashes to scatter across the sea floor. When the tradition of sea burial began, people simply traveled to a special place and poured the ashes into the water or dropped a filled urn into the sea. This sometimes resulted in problems, however, when, say, a strong sea breeze caught the ashes before they hit the water or the urn did not sink as expected. So, today, most scattering of ashes done at sea is presided over by an experienced professional with the use of popular items such as the biodegradable urns. Some municipalities, in fact, have laws requiring such professionals be present at sea burials.
While the sea burial sector of the memorial industry continues to grow today, so are many other ideas for disposing of cremation ashes. Many families decide to bury the cremation ashes. There are several different types of biodegradable urns, and while some may specifically be created to scatter ashes, there are many that are intended to be interred in land. These urns will eventually break down due to the moisture in the soil, allowing the remains to become one with the earth. There are even cremation urns that will take a small part of one’s cremains to nurture the growth of a tree. The tree cremation urns offer several different types of trees to suit most any climate. Today it is possible to find a professional who can help you spread the ashes of a loved one in just about any method that comes to mind. Companies will drop ashes from an airplane over an open sea or volcano. They will toss them out of a hot-air balloon and, in once case, a company called “Heaven above Fireworks” will make them part of a pyrotechnic display that will scatter the ashes across some special place.
One company in Montana has recently made news with its service that offers to scatter ashes in national park forest land for a price of about $350. National park officials have objected to that service on the grounds that it’s a commercial venture, and commercial ventures are simply not allowed to operate in national park forest land. National Forest Service officials do say, however, that, while the private scattering of ashes is not expressly allowed, it is also not necessarily prohibited either. So, while the company continues to appeal the prohibition against commercial scattering on national park land, people who choose to scatter the ashes themselves can, probably, do so in a national park.
In general, professionals who help arrange and perform ash scatterings recommend that families keep a portion of the ashes in keepsake urns or cremation jewelry or pendants, both of which have become big sellers in recent years in the memorial industry. Even if ashes have been scattered across land, retrieving them at a later date is virtually impossible. So families are strongly cautioned to be sure of their decision before the ashes are scattered. That said, most professionals today, are able to provide families with exact global positioning coordinates of the scattering site for future reference. In a word, the options for scattering ashes today are almost limitless.