What To Do With The Ashes?
There’s a finality about burial. It’s all over, you think, as the coffin descends.
Cremation gives you no such conclusion. You get a version of the body back – if you want it. Cremated remains, or ashes, as most people call them, are mostly pulverised bone. They weigh around as much as the dead person did when they were born, so there’s a nice symmetry there.
If you decided not to have a funeral for the body, but opted for direct cremation in order to prepare the body for a funeral, now’s your chance to have one pretty much anywhere you like.
If you did have a funeral for the body and it was an unsatisfactory occasion, here’s a second chance to get it right.
What to do with them?
You can bury ashes in your local cemetery or in a natural burial ground. You can scatter them. You can divide them up among members of the family. You can get the crematorium to scatter them. You can do hundreds of things with them.
Many people only start to think creatively after they’ve brought the ashes home – sometimes long after. During this time they may sit on the mantelpiece, the wardrobe, the boot of the car, dry, warm and safe. Of course, they’re more than just ashes and they deserve a fitting destination. This is a very personal thing, so does it matter in the least what other people think? Rolling Stone Keith Richard snorted some of his father’s ashes. Patsy Kensit slept beside her mother’s for years. A distinguished pathologist, Derek Roskell, wants his ashes be scattered over Tony Blair. Denise Moon took the ashes of her late partner to court to prove that she was not evading council tax. Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek, was shot into space. We make sense of things in our own way. That way may not seem logical to other people, but logic may well have a negligible part to play in the matter of farewelling our dead or, indeed, of making sense of anything.
A favourite way with ashes is to scatter them at a spot which the dead person loved. But there are drawbacks you ought to consider.
First, if this is a popular beauty spot you may feel inhibited by the proximity of other people. You won’t have a good experience if you wait anxiously till no one’s looking, then do it surreptitiously in a cloak-and-dagger operation. So many people do this at Jane Austen’s cottage that fly-tipped remains have become come an unsightly nuisance.
Second, if the beauty spot you favour is a mountain top or an upland location, the phosphate in the ashes will upset the ecology. It’s a poor way to commemorate someone, to turn them into a bio-hazard. This is why football grounds will not let you scatter ashes on the pitch. It’d upset the fans.
Make a ceremony of it. Choose a place where you can have that ceremony openly and joyously and safely.
If you would like to hold a memorial service, Hugh Thomas of MemorialServices.org.uk can give you some excellent advice and support.
Ashes urn by www.eco-urns.co.uk
Here are some other things you can do with ashes:
- Keep them in an urn. There’s a vast range out there, with new products coming on to the market all the time. Your funeral director may not be aware of all of them. Use your search engine. You can buy a very nice-looking urn, perfect for burying or scattering made of stout cardboard decorated with dried leaves and a range of other materials for £35 from Daisy Memories in Devon.
- We love Annie Leigh’s handmade papier maché eco-urns. You can buy a basic, unpainted one for £80. Annie, who happens also to be a lovely human being, also makes bespoke urns, some of them deliciously quirky — a flat cap, for example, and a suitcase. Ring Annie and talk over what you want she’s a very good listener. Find her website here
- Elysium is a stable of artists who make a range of bespoke, crafted memorial pieces — urns, candle-holders, glass bowls, garden sculpture. Find out all about them here:
- For very high-end urn, try FUNERIA
- Pour them into a striking piece of sculpture – here
- Mix them with clay or concrete and make something. A builder had his made into paving slabs. He said he’d been walked over all his life, he fancied more of the same when dead.
- Commission an artist to mix them with paint and create a portrait — here
- Fire them out of shotgun cartridges. Speak to a gunsmith.
- Have them pressed into a vinyl record which will play your favourite music — here
- Scatter them from a hot air balloon or a light aircraft.
- Scatter them at sea. Do a deal with a charter boat. We like this one in Kent — here
- Scatter them over the Thames from a riverboat — here
- Have them turned into a diamond – here.
- Have them made into a crystal windchime: — here.
- Have them mixed with glass and made into an ornament or pendant – here.
- Keep some in a locket or a pendant. Really lovely things, and the prices are good — here.
- Have them made into a firework display – here and here and here and here.
- Launch them into the stratosphere, where they will encircle the Earth — here.
- Fire them into space – here.
- Bury them in an underwater reef in Weymouth Bay, Dorset – here.
Your range of choices is as wide as your imagination.
Can’t make up your mind? Secure Haven will keep them safe for until you do in their historic barn in Essex. They can arrange to collect the ashes from your undertaker. A premium service – £1 a day. Find Secure Haven here.
A good and developing website dedicated to all things ashes is Scattering Ashes http://www.scattering-ashes.co.uk/. Lots of good suggestions here, plus ceremony ideas plus links. We like it a lot.
The Good Funeral Guide blog has discussed ashes here