Americans as a whole do not tend to think much about death. That is until it happens. Suddenly, there are many difficult decisions to be made and one of the biggest questions is what to do with the cremated remains. Here is an overview of your options, including many that you might not even know are available.
What’s in the box?
Cremated remains consist of mostly sterilized bone fragments. Once processed, the fragments have a size and weight similar to ground up sea shells. The volume of the remains for most normal size adults is about 220 cubic inches, which is about the same area as the inside of a soccer ball. If you do not purchase a cremation urn, you will probably be given the ashes in a rectangular plastic box weighing about 10 pounds.
What do I do with the ashes?
You have four basic options: bury the ashes, place them in a niche in a columbarium, scatter the ashes, or take the ashes home. Cremation urns are designed to meet these four primary modes of disposition. You can also choose to do any combinations of these dispositions. But remember, once the ashes have been buried or disbursed, it can be difficult or impossible to obtain a portion to be kept at home.
• Placing the urn in a columbarium. Columbariums are indoor facilities, usually on the grounds of a cemetery, that are designed to hold and display cremation urns. Inside the columbarium are display cases within which the urns are stored. Each compartment inside, called a niche, can be purchased to hold and protect the urn indefinitely. Family members and future generations can come and view the urn at any time. When choosing the niche option, make sure to check with the columbarium managers regarding size and space limitations before selecting an urn.
• Burying the ashes. If burying the ashes is your intention you can choose an urn made from a durable material such as metal or ceramic. These urns, in turn, can be sealed and protected indefinitely inside a heavy, water-tight structure called an urn vault. At the other end of the spectrum, there are biodegradable urns made of recycled or renewable resources designed to break down rapidly and disburse the ashes with minimal lasting impact on nature.
• Scattering the ashes. Many people like the idea of disbursing the ashes in a location that was significant to the individual and their family–a forest perhaps, or maybe in the ocean, or along a stream. Special biodegradable urns are available for water burial that are designed to float for a few moments and then gracefully descend to the depths where the ashes are quickly disbursed. For land scattering, choose an urn designed to easily open then be resealed. Note that laws regarding the scattering of ashes on public lands vary from state to state.
• Taking the ashes home. An increasing number of families are choosing to bring some or all of the ashes home. Inexpensive brass cremation urns are readily available online. You can choose a full-size urn or two or more smaller “sharing” urns so that multiple loved ones can have some of the ashes.
Other creative memorialization options.
Outside of the traditional urns there is the option to have an urn made by an artist. This is a great opportunity to buy an inspirational and beautiful, one-of-a-kind piece of art. Any art vessel of the right size will work and it need not have been made by the artist with the intention of it being used as a cremation urn. One advantage of an art urn is that it doesn’t look like “an urn.” In fact, most people will not know it’s an urn unless you tell them.
Additionally, there are Forget-me-Not memorials. These memorials are often made in the shapes of hearts, doves, or crosses made of recycled or renewable paper embedded with forget-me-not flower seeds that can be passed out at the memorial ceremony or mailed to loved ones unable to attend. When planted the flowers will come up each spring providing a poignant reminder for years to come.
Finally, cremation jewelry is another memorial option that is quickly gaining popularity. Cremation jewelry items are pendants, rings, and bracelets that look like ordinary jewelry. Inside, however, there is a secret compartment sealed with a tiny precision screw. A small amount of ashes can be sealed inside and the piece can be personalized with engraving of your choice. You can even have the fingerprint of your loved one engraved on the item, or have a high-resolution photo laser engraved on the piece. Cremation jewelry can help heal the hurt of the loss of a loved one by enabling you to carry their memory with you as you continue your life’s journey.
Whatever you choose to do with the ashes of your loved one, remember that while it is important to keep in mind the wishes of the deceased, memorialization is really for those still living. It provides the continuity of family and friendship that we all need to help understand who we are, where we came from, and ultimately gain a deeper understanding and acceptance of the cycle of life and death.
Content of this article respectfully provided by the Bailey family, founders of www.memorialgallery.com and www.memorialgallerypets.com. The Bailey family is honored to help you and your family with all of your memorialization product needs. Visit us online or give us a call at 253-649-0567.