By far the majority of ashes produced from the 400,000 cremations last year in the UK, will end up being buried or strewn in a garden of remembrance at the crematorium. This we believe, is because most people are not aware of the options available to them. For people that wish to hold on to the “cremains”, the majority of those brought home will sit on a mantle piece or at the bottom of a cupboard, again often through not knowing what else to do with them.
There are in fact many options, whether dispersing all, most or just some of the “cremains”, in the ground, in the water, or in the air. Get some ideas, and see if any of the links can inspire something special for you.
Usually at the crematorium in a garden of remembrance, or in a family grave, ashes can in fact be buried just about anywhere you choose (as long as you have permission from the land owner). In woodland burial grounds, back gardens, down the allotments, as long as local rules and regulations adhered to the choices are greater than many think.
To the Wind
Maybe “to the light breeze” would be a better title, but this is how a lot of private individuals do it, and there’s even a company (Ashes to Earth) that will do it for you, be that a local spot to you, on the other side of the country, or even the other side of the world!
When distributing ashes in this way, there are no strict regulations, but consideration of others and common sense should prevail. The Environment Agency does issues guidelines for responsible dispersal, which in brief advises:
* avoid windy days if possible, and other people who might get covered,
* if scattering onto a river, release the ash close to the surface, refrain from doing it near to where people swim, or within 1km upstream of a drinking water supply,
* if you wish to leave a wreath, make sure it doesn’t contain plastics or metal that may litter or harm wildlife.
If you choose to “cast” the ashes at a favourite beauty spot, also bear in mind that if its a very popular site, where lots of people may do the same thing throughout the year, the phosphate enrichment caused by a lot of cremated ash being strewn in the same place, will over time affect the local eco-system. It was for this reason, that the Mountaineering Council of Scotland and Welsh conservationists have asked bereaved relatives to avoid scattering ashes on certain summits, as it was stimulating unnaturally fast plant growth. Probably for this and other practical reasons, some football clubs have now banned the remains of deceased fans being dispersed on their pitches as well.
In the same theme as ‘scattering to the wind’, one small uk business has gone one further, and can now cast the ashes directly into the upper atmosphere! Using environmentally-friendly balloons, and a unique release mechanism, (Stardust Ashes) will carry your ashes to a height of up to 100,000 ft, where they are released from a lightweight urn into the stratosphere, so that they may circulate the globe.
Scatterings can be a private or public affair – whether you want to say your last goodbye alone, as a family or as part of a group, they can provide a suitable service that meets your requirments – all you need to choose is a suitable location anywhere in the UK.
Trenching is digging a shallow hole or trench in the ground or sand, placing the remains into that trench, and then covering or raking them over. Trenching at the beach however, if timed correctly, could then allow the tides to come in and ceremoniously wash the ashes out to sea. This can be especially powerful if the trenching spells out the name of the person, with maybe a personal message. Doing this on a busy bank holiday in Brighton might not be the best idea, but sunrise or sunset at a more remote setting (we do live on an island after all) could really be very moving.
Although Sea Burial in your “natural form” as mentioned previously is one option, many people prefer to scatter cremated remains at sea instead. It can be just as personal, a lot easier (no red-tape or licence required), and also much, much cheaper, with many charter companies available who will assist you with this, if you or a friend do not have access to a boat yourselves.
One of the best ways to carry out a water scattering is by placing the ashes in a water-soluble scattering urn. Ashes cast directly into the water can sometimes blow back at the boat and cling to the sides which may not be the everlasting peaceful memory you envisioned. A water-soluble scattering urn however, once placed in the water, is designed to gently float away and then sink after a few minutes, where it will then degrade and disperse the ashes slowly.
There are some links to follow below, but most boat charter companies spoken to were more than happy to take on such a service, be that at sea or on a river.
www.mudefordferry.co.uk (Christchurch – very good value)
www.scatterashes.co.uk (Eel Pie Island – Thames)
www.ukashes.com (both attended and non-attended scatterings available)
Many families are now choosing to celebrate the life of their departed loved-ones with fireworks. This can be on a small or large scale, with many companies offering fantastic firework spectaculars if required. A few companies however, in addition, can safely embed a small amount of cremated ashes into the actual fireworks for you to either self fire at a service, wake or memorial, or have them do a whole professional display for you. If you ever wanted to go out with a bang – you won’t get much bigger than this!
www.halo-fx.com (Midlands based covering all UK)
A “Memorial Reef” is a designed reef made of environmentally safe cast concrete that is used to create new marine habitats for fish and other forms of sea life. There are 2 companies, both based in the US who supply variations of this service – Eternal and Neptune Reefs.
Eternal Reefs, takes the cremated remains or “cremains” of an individual and incorporates them into an environmentally safe cement mixture designed to create artificial reef formations. The memorial reefs are taken to a curing area and then placed in the permitted ocean location selected by the individual, friend or family member.
For families and individuals that choose cremation rather than burial, Eternal Reefs offers a new memorial option that replaces cremation urns and ash scattering with a permanent environmental living legacy. Expected to last 500 years, over 300 Memorial Reefs have been placed off the coasts of Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Maryland, New Jersey, Texas and Virginia.
Neptune Memorial Reef is planned as a re-creation of the legendary Lost City that will be the largest man-made reef of its type in the world. Covering over 16 acres of ocean floor, the Neptune Memorial Reef will offer room for more than 125,000 remains, and become a “living city” that will act as a sanctuary for marine life to converge and thrive.
Located 3.25 miles off the Miami Coast in 45 feet of crystal clear water, the Neptune Memorial Reef will attract divers, ecologists, tourists … and those looking for a final resting place of unmatched beauty.
Click here for a bbc news report on Memorial Reefs
Air scattering is best performed by professional pilots and air services. The airplanes are specially designed to handle the cremated remains. Some professionals will arrange for family and friends to be on the ground watching as the plane flies over and a plume of remains can be seen from the ground. If no one is present, the service will provide the specific time and date of the aerial scattering. Often it can be arranged that close family and friends fly along.
Another form of scattering by air is via skydiving. Although not very common at all, most skydiving clubs have occasionally done ash scattering for past club members, but only a few clubs are willing to provide the service to the general public. If you ever fancied jumping out of a plane at 3,000 feet and free-falling at 120 mph, but didn’t have the nerve to do it when your were alive, then in death what have you got to loose?
www.blueskygoodbye.com (USA based)
Hot Air Balloon Scattering
As with skydiving, scattering ashes from a hot air balloon is not a service that companies advertise, but when contacted, it is something that many have and are more than willing to do for you. The only condition seems to be that you will have to charter the balloon just for yourselves, as other passengers may not be overly impressed if Great Aunt Maud’s ashes gets blown back in their face!
Private charters are often available from two people upwards in different size balloons. Once booked you can either elect to fly from one of the usual launch sites, or some companies will allow you to fly from your own land (if suitable).
For anyone with an interest in space, astronomy or the universe. Memorial Spaceflights based in the US, can blast a symbolic portion of your cremated remains up on a rocket, on a choice of missions ranging from return space flights to orbit placement. According to their website, by 2011 they hope to put cremains on the moon, and the following year launch permanent celestial journeys into deepest space.
Prices start at a few hundred pounds for 1g on a return flight, to several thousand, depending on the service and amount of ash to be transported. They even offer savings plans for those who may wish to do this when their own time comes.
For those who like a flavour of adventure, or anyone with an interest in space, astronomy or the universe, this might be just for you.
Being blasted from a shotgun is certainly not everyone’s cup of tea, but for those who have or had a keen interest in shooting, the idea of using a small proportion of your ashes to celebrate a life is not quite so bizarre. Whether it’s just a few “special” cartridges for a token “gun salute” by friends or family, or using a bit more of the ashes and having several boxes made up for a whole days event, it is certainly an option. There are not many companies that offer this as a service, but if it’s just a few cartridges needed, the local gun club may know of somebody local who can do it, but if using an actual cartridge manufacturing company (see below) you may be able to get the cartridges and boxes personalised with a name and date if desired as well.