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Thread: Question about scattering loved one's ashes

  1. #1

    Question about scattering loved one's ashes

    I hope this isn't creepy or offensive to anyone, but I have a question about how exactly one goes about scattering a loved one's ashes. My mother-in-law passed away more than two years ago and we had her cremated. She passed away rather suddenly and we couldn't figure out what to do with the ashes, so her final resting place for the last 2+ years has been DH's closet!

    About a year before she passed away she moved to Austin from Florida where she had lived many years and where DH's dad, who passed away before I knew DH, is buried. We didn't really want to put her ashes there because we have absolutely no connection to Florida and will likely never go there. She was an avid golfer and we thought about spreading her ashes on the golf course where she played for years, but then we learned that wasn't allowed and besides, that's in Florida too! So now we think we are going to spread her ashes at our ranchette. It wasn't necessarily her favorite place, but it is DH's little piece of heaven on earth, soooo......Anyway, my question is really more kind of a practical one. How exactly do you spread the ashes? Do you just dump them from the box? Do you put them in some kind of a bowl or something and throw them? Do you have a ceremony of some kind?

    I know these question sound really dumb, but I have no idea how to go about doing this and DH can't deal with it, so I want to help him. If any of you have had experience with this sort of thing, I would be most grateful to hear your thoughts.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2003
    Victoria, B. C. Canada
    My mom died last year and my dad 9 years before. Dad has been in our cupboard since his death. (Mom was in poor heath at the time and my sister and I decided to spread both their ashes at the same time). They both wished their ashes to be spread on our property up at the highest point. We are beside a park and our highest point is around 1000 feet. We spread them both under a lovely tree up at the top overlooking our property. We read a poem that was a favourite of my mom's which she kept in her wallet for years.

    I personally think that you do what you feel is right for your DH and you. JMHO.

    "Trying to live the life I imagined"

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Well the first thing to know is that in some jurisdictions it's illegal, so you want to be a bit discreet about whom you mention this to.

    I think whatever sort of ceremony you want would be fine--some people do just sort of scatter from the box (mind if it's a windy day), and others take handfuls and sort of scatter them around. My mom's cremains are sitting in the top of the closet in my study until we can go up to where she wanted to be scattered. That'll probably be next summer and something that we do sort of "under the radar" as I'm unclear on the laws in that state.
    "Don't put all your eggs in one basket.
    Use an egg carton like everyone else and stop being such a poser." - The Little Book of Wrong Shui

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Hollywood, California
    First I am relieved to know I am not the only one with a guilty secret -- my mother's ashes have been in my closet for the past 10 years. I don't have the heart to broach the subject with my father. I guess when he dies I will deal with it at the same time.

    When my brother died, we scattered his ashes in a bird sanctuary. His best friend physically did it and just did it from the package from the mortuary -- sorry to be graphic but make sure there isn't a wind when you do it. I guess mortuary practice may differ but my experience was there was a plastic bag inside the box. I think he let it fall to the floor of the forest rather than strewing it but as others have posted, there really isn't a wrong or right way.

    I do think a lot of people do it discreetly rather than check on state regulations. I can't imagine it's any kind of public health hazard given how the ashes were created.

    As to ceremony, it seems as though most people limit it to family or perhaps very close family-like friends and don't have a formal ceremony as most people seem to have the memorial at another time and place. Like anything, the ceremony would be what the participants felt was meaningful.

    There wasn't a ceremony with my brother -- but there had already been a memorial service.
    Last edited by blazedog; 11-02-2008 at 12:04 PM.
    Some days I pray for Silence, Some days I pray for Soul,
    Some days I just pray to the God of Sex and Drums and Rock 'N' Roll.


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2001
    We spread my FIL's remains in a quiet, scenic spot that had had special meaning to FIL and MIL. It most likely wasn't entirely legal to do so (so I won't say specifically where it was), but it was quite a bit off the beaten path and it didn't take very long.

    You can do it with as much or as little ceremony as suits you -- read a poem, say a prayer, just say a few words, whatever. Neither DH nor MIL are much for ceremony, so we just had a few moments of silence, and then went on our way.

    I will add to what Gil mentioned, about the wind, something we didn't take into account -- and as DH started to scatter the ashes, from the box that they had been in, they blew right back toward him and ended up all over his sneakers. It was a little awkward to have to brush "Dad" off his shoes.

    What we really wanted to do was scatter the remains at Giants Stadium, in East Rutherford, NJ, because both FIL and DH were/are lifelong, dedicated Giants football fans. (Ideally, DH would have liked to scatter them in the end zone). At the time we even knew someone with connections to the Giants, so we looked into it a little, but were told there was virtually no way we'd be able to do that -- and that we weren't the first people who'd ever wanted to do it, either.

    "We reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our founding fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake."
    --President Barack Obama, 1/20/09

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2002
    San Francisco
    As others have stated, of course there's not "correct" thing to do: it's whatever is most comfortable for you and in keeping with the deceased's wishes.
    My sister wanted her ashes sprinkled in a particular river, which of course was illegal and which, of course, we did anyhow. At her request, there was a service river-side, with music and readings (only "memorial" I've been to where the guests had been given reading assignments by the deceased; they were her tributes to various friends and family). A friend of hers waded out into the river and emptied the ashes straight from the box while a song she'd requested played. I'm glad he wanted the job because there is no way I could do it. Both of my parents went with Neptune Society, which, as the name suggests, scatters ashes at sea, beyond the Golden Gate. I've stipulated the same thing in my a.d.
    Happiness is not a goal, it is a byproduct. - Eleanor Roosevelt

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Fredericksburg, Virginia
    When my sweetie died, we scattered his ashes on the mountaintop where we built our retirement home. He had mentioned years before that he would love a bagpipe to play Amazing Grace... a neighbor found a student at a local college to play as we all took turns scattering ashes and placed a small amount on his beloved dog's grave also.... moving and so, so sad

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2000
    Richmond, TX USA
    WE scattered Mom under a tree that had been planted at their church with a little stone for a memorial and a bench - getting that together had been the bulk of the delay. Dad's tree will be on the other side of the sidewalk. We scattered the ashes (the three kids took turns with the bag) and then covered it with red mulch. The Episcopal church has a service for ash dispersion that we followed - prayers, etc.

    Then we went inside the church for Dad and Claire's wedding rehearsal. They were married more than a year after Mom died. They had met at the mallwalker's group that Dad had continued to participate in after Mom died. At the time Dad was 80 and Claire was 78. They have been married almost 4 years now.

    This was done at a time with all the grandkids were available since 2 were in college and my sister could come in - so we scattered Mom and married Dad off the next day.

    My sister still has a friend's mother's ashes in her closet. I don't even know if she still has contact information on the friend. Some people can't deal with it.

    Now Robin's Mom too...10/21/02

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Nov 2001
    Everett, WA
    When my brother passed away a few years ago, my SIL did the most bizzare thing I've ever seen anyone do with anyone else's cremains. Mark was a Dr Pepper fanatic, so Carol Ann had his cremains placed in Dr Pepper cans and bottles. I understand where she was coming from, but that was just creepy. It horrified Mark's daughter, and so she doesn't have any of her Dad's ashes.

    One kinda cool thing happened, tho. My DS Patrick had passed away a couple of years before, and Mark and Carol Ann had sent a balloon arrangement to the funeral, and we had a graveside balloon release. Mark and Carol Ann had been talking about going to Canada when Mark left the hospital, but he never did. So Carol Ann took some of his ashes and drove a short way into Canada, until she came across a small river or big stream. Just as she was scattering some ashes into the water, a balloon that was caught in the current came floating by. We took that as a sign that Patrick was there with Mark on the other side and that everything was just fine.
    Just another Susan

    "Peggy, here I am tryin' to contain an outbreak, and you're drivin' the monkey to the airport!" Hank Hill

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2003
    You can have the ashes placed on top of a family members grave if you wish. I did this with my mom's ashes, as that was her wish to have her ashes placed on top of her parents grave.


  11. #11
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Out looking for a sous chef
    Just in case you missed this very touching story this weekend, about a WWII veteran's ashes being distributed where his ship, the USS Indianapolis, went down:

    I'm sorry for your loss.
    If you're afraid of butter, use cream. ~~ Julia Child

    As you cook, you enjoy omniscience about food that no amount of label reading can match. Having retaken control of the meal from the food scientists, you know exactly what is in it. (Unless you start w/cream of mushroom soup, in which case all bets are off.) To reclaim control over one's food, to take it back from industry & science, is no small thing; indeed, in our time, cooking from scratch qualifies as subversive. ~~ Michael Pollan

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Apr 2002
    San Francisco
    What a great story, hollysmom I hope your dad and Claire are very happy - sounds like the family was very supportive.

    testkitchen45, thank you for posting that link, what an incredibly touching story. I cannot endorse strongly enough the fantastic book "In Harm's Way" about that tragic event.
    Happiness is not a goal, it is a byproduct. - Eleanor Roosevelt

  13. #13
    Thank you all for your responses! They are both comforting and informative. I'll let you know what we end up doing. Thanks again1

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