An Intriguing Memorial Option
Sea burial is an intriguing memorial option whose popularity has increased in recent years with the rise in the number of cremations across America. This correlation is happening because sea “burial” is most often associated with the scattering of cremation ashes across a body of water. This type of green cremation burial is the most popular type of sea burial practiced today, but full-body burial is still practiced on occasion (particularly in the case of life-long sailor or in rare instances in which a death occurs at sea and transporting the body to land is impractical). Because cremation-related sea burial is by far the most common, it is the focus of the remainder of this article.
Traditionally speaking, cremation sea burial involves simply emptying an urn full of ashes over a body of water. But, as fans of any number of comedy movies well know, this is not always as simple a process as it may seem. Extreme care must be taken in this process so that ashes will not end up blown — disastrously if it should happen outside of a movie — into the scatterer’s face. Professionals are well trained in a number of techniques to assure that the ashes scatter properly with dignity and beauty, and biodegradable urns are a relatively recent addition to memorial industry that makes ash scattering a risk-free endeavor even for the novice. Biodegradable urns are simply placed into water where they will float gracefully for a few minutes before gradually sinking to the sea floor where they will degrade and scatter the ashes over the course of a few days.
But biodegradable cremation ash urns are just one option. It is common, in fact, that relatives simply purchase a heavy urn for a loved one and drop it into a deep body of water. It should be noted that this practice may not be suitable for all bodies of water, and it may, in fact, be illegal in some areas.
Here is one interesting relevant tale told by a musician in Corpus Christi, Texas who has said he may turn the story into a song someday: The man was sitting on some rocks that extend a few hundred feet into the Corpus Christi bay when he noticed another man in a boat struggling with a cremation urn that simply would not sink. The musician, seeing that the man was also overwhelmed with emotion, compassionately gestured for the boat to come nearer, and the man gratefully complied. Once the boat was near the rocks, the tearful man said that the urn held the ashes of his father whose final request had been to be scattered in the Corpus Christi Bay, where he had fished all of his life. The musician and the son tried several more times to sink the urn, but, though it was made of a very heavy metal, it always floated to the surface. Finally, the musician realized that the air pocket inside the urn was keeping the piece afloat. He suggested the man open the urn, keep the top as a memorial to his father, and set the open urn into the water to sink gracefully to the bottom, scattering the ashes on its way down. The man took the suggestion and it worked as intended. The two strangers parted ways shortly thereafter, but the scene will live on in both men’s memories forever.
The musician says it is unlikely that he will ever see the man again, but he thinks about him every day and is contemplating a song about the powerful experience. He warns people who hear his story, however, that, touching as the experience is, scattering of ashes in such a way is probably in violation of a number of laws. Most bodies of water that are near shore are covered under local, state, or even federal laws that restrict or prohibit scattering of cremation ashes — particularly in cases in which an urn is involved. That is why many professionally done burials take place well off shore.