Techniques for Scattering Ashes (Cremated Remains)
There are several methods for scattering ashes. We discuss different ways of spreading ashes including scattering ashes at sea.
Casting is a way of scattering where the remains are tossed into the wind. You will want to check the direction of the wind and cast the remains downwind. Most of the remains will fall to the ground. But some of the lighter particles will blow in the wind, forming a whitish-grey cloud.
One person in the group may cast the remains or scatter some and hand the container to the next person. That way everyone has a chance to ceremonially cast the remains. Another option is people are given paper cups or casting cups and they cast simultaneously in a sort of toasting gesture.
Trenching is digging a hole or trench in the ground or sand and the remains are placed into the trench. The remains can be placed directly into the trench or placed in a biodegradable urn or bag. At the end of the ceremony survivors often rake over the trench. Another option is to write a deceased one’s name in the dirt or sand- perhaps inside of a heart. The remains could also be placed inside this name and heart.
Then, you may consider taking a photo of this for a memory book. If done at the beach, you can time it so that that the tide comes in and ceremoniously washes it out to sea. Family and friends may want to join hands and form a circle. If it’s not too windy, candles may also form a circle around the site. The candles are then given to each person as a keepsake.
Raking involves pouring the cremated remains from an urn evenly on loose soil. Then rake them into the ground at the conclusion of the ceremony. It is important to keep the urn close to the ground when pouring out the remains due to wind. Survivors may wish to take turns raking the remains back into the earth. If you choose to do this at a scattering garden at a cemetery, this is how they will perform the scattering.
This is done either at a “Green Cemetery” or at a traditional cemetery. Often cemeteries will allow you to place a biodegradable bag or biodegradable urn on top of a gravesite or a family member as long as it is buried. Obviously, you will want to check with the cemetery and see what their requirements are.
Water scattering involves placing the remains into a body of water. A biodegradable bag or urn is recommended. This is most often when cremated remains can blow back into a person’s face or get washed up onto the side of the boat. Both experiences can be traumatic and not the everlasting peaceful memory you envisioned. If you search on the internet or in the phone book you can find people that have boats and are experienced.
There are urns on the market designed to gently float away and then quickly biodegrade into the water. Many people throw rose petals or flowers into the water after the urn. If the remains are in a biodegradable bag they may sink. You also may wish to throw a wreath of flowers into the water and watch the wreath drift away.
A customer wrote to tell us of her experience with our heart biodegradable urn:
“I wanted to let you know that the urn was just beautiful. Sandy’s husband, daughter, sister, best friends – everyone just loved it. And the event went off almost exactly as planned (these things are never perfect). Since that time, I feel I have slowly started to heal. Being able to let go of her ashes exactly how she wanted, and in such a beautiful way was a milestone. You were one of the ones who made it possible. I thank you again from the bottom of my heart.
“I am attaching a picture of the urn, just after we placed it in the ocean, floating in the seagrass surrounded by the rose petals we also scattered. When I try to remind myself of the good things in her tragically short and very unhappy life, this is one of the pictures I hold dear. Please feel free to post it on your web site, and perhaps others will be able to benefit from knowing that letting go can be beautiful.
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 survivors are not present, the service will provide the specific time and date of the aerial scattering. Often you can arrange that close family and friends fly along.
While scattering cremated remains can be emotionally very difficult, hopefully by knowing your options and being informed it will make a difficult time a little easier.
Poems and Verses for the Scattering Ceremony
As you fulfill your loved one’s wishes to be cremated and scattered at sea, you may want to have close friends and family who are attending the scattering each read a poem or verse.
Perhaps you may want to open the ceremony with something like, “The ceremony at sea for our beloved Mother is the perfect place for setting her free. We are comforted to know that she is finally home among loved ones.”
You would then have each family member read the poem that you have given to them.
Some ideas are:
Alone I will not be
my comfort will come from the sea.
The stillness of clam waves will gently drift by
I will be as one with the sea.
When the sun sets on the ocean blue,
remember me as I will always remember you.
As the sun rises…go live life as full as can be
Apart…you and me…but a peace for I am free.
My life is ended here at peace with the sea.
The Lord has called me home and I am free
to go peacefully.
Don’t mourn my passing as I am now in the presence of the Glory of God,
His bright love is abundant and his promises are real.
I will wait here for you dear ones in Jesus’ arms and watch over you with him until you also come home.
Be comforted loved ones.
“I shall go the way of the open sea, To the Lands before you came, And the cool ocean breezes shall blow from me, The memory of your name.”
A Parable of Immortality
I am standing upon the seashore.
A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean.
She is an object of beauty and strength.
I stand and watch until at last she hangs like a speck of white cloud
Just where the sea and the sky come to mingle with each other.
Then someone says, “There she goes!”
Gone from my sight, that is all.
She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side
And just as able to bear her load of living freight to the place of destination.
Her diminished size is in me, not in her.
And just at the moment when someone at my side says, “There she goes”
There are other eyes watching her coming
And their voices ready to take up the glad shouts,
“Here she comes!”
By Henry Van Dyke
In closing, the scattering at sea ceremony is about saying goodbye. You can create an everlasting memory of setting your loved one free.
If you are looking for a company to handle aerial ash scattering in Colorado, and parts of Kansas, Nebraska, and Wyoming contact www.airlegacy.com
If you are looking for burial at sea service:
Long Beach and Huntington Beach, California visit Burials at Sea by Captain Johnnie Lee. Also try Ashes on the Sea serving Oceanside, Long Beach, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Marina del Rey, Ventura, Santa Barbara, and other West Coast areas, including Fort Bragg. For Florida visit Grace Air
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If you have had an experience with scattering cremated remains and you would like to share it with our visitors, please email us at [email protected]