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What Do People Do with the Ashes After Cremation?

Published: October 27, 2022


Cremation is growing in popularity in the United States. More than half of us now choose to be cremated. Each year the number increases. If you opt for burial, choice of your final resting place is limited to cemeteries. For the ashes resulting from cremation, though, the possibilities are almost endless.

       The crematory returns the ashes to the family in an urn. These receptacles are made of stone, ceramics, wood, metal, or many other materials. The styles range from simple to gloriously ornate, and the urn can be engraved to further personalize it. Now what?

         Your loved one may have designated in their will or funeral preplan where they wish their remains to be interred, stored, or otherwise dispersed.

       Some people keep the urns in their homes, displayed on a mantle, a table, or a bookshelf.  

       Others opt to bury the urns in a family cemetery plot or place them in a niche in a special section of a cemetery called a columbarium. These structures may be in a building or outdoors.

Many families, however, plan to scatter the ashes.

Some cemeteries have scatter gardens, landscaped areas where ashes can be mingled with others. Or your loved one might designate a favorite fishing hole or hiking trail where they want their remains strewn. Is that allowed? It depends.

Scattering ashes on private land, with the permission of the owner, is legal. If you are hoping for a little ritual in a state or national park, it gets complicated. For any public lands, you must seek permission from the rangers, who will note limitations on sites, usually away from hiking trails and rivers or streams. The pitcher’s mound at your favorite ballpark or the fifty-yard line at the football stadium, on the other hand, is probably not an option.

If your loved one is a sailor, scattering ashes at sea is a possibility, as long as the site you choose is more than three miles from land. Again, check with authorities for details. Or you can honor your aviator by scattering the ashes in the air, whether from a plane, a hot air balloon, or a drone. Whichever venue you choose, be aware of the direction the wind is blowing. You don’t want to dust the mourners with ashes.

Our ancestors prized wreaths and other ornaments made from their loved ones’ hair. Today mourners can wear memorial jewelry, pendants, and similar items designed to hold a small amount of cremains. Look at the Wheelan-Pressly Funeral Home website for samples of these memorial pieces.

Some of the more unusual options to disburse cremains include incorporating ashes into fireworks for a display or having some ashes mixed with ink and used for tattoos. Marine biologists might fancy having their remains incorporated into a coral reef to enhance the ocean environment. Perhaps the utmost choice is having your ashes launched into space. When it comes to scattering cremains, it appears the sky’s the limit.

Thanks for reading our blog. You can reach out to us, Wheelan-Pressly Funeral Home and Crematory anytime at 1-309-786-5421.