After a cremation, what do you do with the ashes? Families are finding ever-more creative ways to celebrate end of life from birdbaths to fireworks.
It's a question you've probably never asked yourself before, but once you, or your loved one, are cremated, what do you want to do with the ashes?
A cremated body reduces to ashes (pulverised bone) that weigh between five and seven pounds and take up a volume of approximately 200 cubic inches. That’s a lot of ashes. And there are a lot of things you can do with them! Oh, and pet lovers are doing the same with the ashes of their dead pets…
Normal, traditional disposal
The most popular thing to do with your ashes is spread them on the crematorium’s rose garden or bury them in a cemetery or churchyard.
This is where the ashes are put in shallow rows, maybe spelling the name of the deceased person (or pet), in the sand at low tide at a favourite beach. Friends and family wait for the tide to come in and watch as the ashes are washed out to sea. Good for a reflective send off as the tide comes in and the sun goes down.
Birdbaths and sundials
There are companies making specially constructed birdbaths and sundials with voids in the base into which your ashes can be poured. The hole is then securely stopped, the object turned the right way up and then placed in the garden as a permanent memorial. Companies providing such services include:
US writer Hunter S Thompson's ashes were fired from a cannon on top of a tower.
You could have some of your ashes filling the void behind a clock face in specially made clocks. This is more popular for the ashes of family pets - yes, people pay money to put Rover’s remains in the back of a bespoke clock.
The ashes are mixed with the explosive to form the part of the firework display. Think about a great beach party, with your favourite music playing, your friends and loved ones having a great time remembering you and as a climax to the party, up you go in the rockets exploding over the sea. Companies providing such services include:
The inventor of the Pringles tube was so proud of his invention his ashes are now interred in an otherwise empty tube - Original flavour. So you might think it appropriate to have some of your ashes kept in an empty Guinness can? McDonald's box? Whisky bottle?
Foundations of a building
Particularly appropriate if the building has a link with the deceased, such as a sports pavilion or, in the case of Sir Ian Richardson, a theatre.
House and garden memorials
There are increasing numbers of companies that make structures into which the ashes are contained, and which then adorn the living room or the garden. Some are beautiful, some are tacky, some are a bit weird. Just google memorial urns…
Ashes can be made into diamond like gemstones and glass pendants, or put into small containers and worn as display jewellery. This is a 21st-century version of Victorian mourning jewellery, when it was common to put a piece of the deceased’s hair in a locket round your neck.Companies providing such services include:
In the US one company is re-creating the legendary Lost City in 16 acres of ocean floor. Called the Neptune Memorial Reef, it offers room for more than 125,000 remains and is a sanctuary for marine life. Here, a company is doing the same off Weymouth, Dorset.
Why not find an artist willing to mix some of your ashes with the oil paint to give it a gritty texture and then use it to paint your portrait. It’s been done before…
Scattered over land and sea
Choose where you want your ashes scattered from a bi-plane.
Go with a BANG! Again, the ashes are mixed with the explosive charge, and bang, off you go, spread far and wide.
US company Celestis will send your ashes into space. Options range from return space flights to orbit placement. They hope to put ashes on the moon and launch permanent celestial journeys into deepest space.
They offer savings plans so you can save now for when the time comes to leave the planet.
Heavens Above are the UK’s Distributor for Celestis.
Increasingly popular, but some caution here...don’t expect all your ashes to be spread over the playing surface of your favourite team or fairway at your golf club... most groundsmen will politely refuse this request although a small symbolic amount might be allowed.
Sunk to the bottom
It is possible for your ashes to be sunk to the bottom of the sea, river or lake, or even garden pond, in a slowly dissolving eco-friendly container.
You can take a small amount of a loved one’s ashes to a tattooist and ask him/her to mix it with tattoo ink and then use for a tattoo. Think hard before making this decision.
Trenching is putting the ashes into a shallow hole in the ground, and then covering or raking them. Ideal for a favourite outdoor location such as your garden or allotment.
Your ashes can be mixed with vinyl and made into bespoke records to include your favourite songs, readings and messages from beyond the grave, or should that be, beyond the groove.
As long as you (or probably your loved ones) get permission your ashes can be scattered over the sea - at least a mile out from the shoreline. A small amount could be scattered over a lake or river, or even a large garden pond.
Your ashes, your choice
If you want your ashes spread in a particular place or disposed of in some of the more unusual ways described here, make this part of your funeral plan, having discussed the details and cost with your loved ones.