Nearly half of Americans are now choosing cremation over burial at the end of their life. It’s easy to see why. Cremation offers a number of benefits over a traditional cemetery burial. However, with cremation comes the decision over what to do with the ashes that remain. Far from being a chore, this task can be an opportunity to further honor the deceased and to leave his or her earthly remains in a place and in a vessel that has meaning, both to the deceased and to the friends and family who remain.
Why cremation makes sense today
The chief reason for choosing cremation today is cost. The average cost of end-of-life arrangements with cremation is around $6,078, according to the National Funeral Directors Association. That compares to an average cost of more than $8,500 for a funeral with a cemetery burial and vault. However, that price can be even less then $1000 if you opt not to have a viewing and you choose a simple, pine casket.
With cremation, you can skip many of the costs associated with a traditional funeral, things like an expensive casket, a vault, embalming services and, of course, the cost of the cemetery plot and headstone. However, cost is just one of many good reasons to consider cremation. Among reasons for choosing cremation for yourself or your loved ones include:
- It’s kind to the environment. When you opt for cremation, you’re not tying up a piece of land for generations to come, land that potentially can be used for housing or to grow crops. Embalming chemicals can be cancerous and harm our water supply
- It can make it easier on the family. Cremation can also make it easier on friends and family, especially if they live far away from where the funeral will be held. With cremation, there is no reason to have the service immediately, allowing friends and family to plan around work, community and other family obligations and shop for more economic travel arrangements.
- It’s simpler. Having to make a lot of decisions in a short period of time can be stressful, especially when family and friends are grieving. Opting for cremation give us more time to carefully consider number of choices the family has to make and many of those decisions can be postponed for a few weeks or months.
- It’s portable. When you choose cremation, you have a myriad of options about how to scatter or display your loved one’s ashes, many more options than if you had to purchase a cemetery plot.
A little bit about how cremation works
When you opt for cremation after a person dies, their body is transferred to the funeral home or crematorium. The person’s body is placed in a lightweight coffin and sent to a cremation chamber where it is heated to temperatures of 1,500 to 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit. This vaporizes the body and reduces it to ashes and bone fragments. These ashes are then transferred to a cremation vessel and given to the family. The average remains weight between three and six pounds, depending on the size of the person. Most states require a brief waiting period (of 24 to 48 hours) before a person’s remains can be cremated.
There are a number of ways to handle the ashes. Some people out for a decorative urn to hold the ashes and display them in their home. Others opt to house the ashes in a columbarium or cemetery. Still others have a piece of jewelry made from a portion of the ashes. However, scattering ashes is the most popular disposition of cremation ashes.
Creative ways to scatter ashes
Since scattering ashes is now the #1 disposition for cremation ashes, people are getting more and more creative with scattering locations and techniques. Using some type of scattering urns or vessel helps to make the occasion more solemn and dignified as well as making it easier to do. Below are just a few suggestions about what is available to help you be creative.
- Use a scattering urn. Scattering urns are vessels that make it easier to return cremated remains to nature. With a scattering urn, you don’t have to worry about an untimely gust of wind or inclement weather marring your tribute. Scattering urns are designed to gradually release the ashes into the environment. Just a few of these urns include:
- Birdhouse scattering urn. Wooden birdhouses can also be designed to hold cremated remains until they can be scattered in a favorite spot. After the scattering is complete, the birdhouse helps provide shelter for wildlife and acts as a memorial to the person who has died.
Birdhouse urns come in a variety of shapes and sizes and are usually made from fast-growing, sustainable woods.
- Sand urn. A sand urn, as the name implies, are made of sand with a little gelatin added. They contain a biodegradeable pouch that contains the ashes and have holes drilled into the bottom of the vessel. These urns are designed to place on a favorite beach, where the rising and falling tides will quickly scatter the ashes.
- Sand and gelatin urns. Sand and gelatin urns are not just for beaches. They come in a variety of shapes , colors and sizes. Like the birdhouse and sand urns, these vessels are designed to let the ashes disperse gradually as the urn dissolves over time. They can even be buried. In the ground, they will dissolve in about three months. In water, the process takes about three days.
- Use a biodegradable pouch. Using a biodegradable pouch alone is another way to aid in scattering a loved one’s ashes. This decorative pouches can be buried, released at sea or kept closer to home.
- Plant a tree with the ashes. Another good use of a biodegradable pouch is to combine it with a new sapling. By planting them together, the cremated remains of your loved one help to nurture the new tree for years to come. Plus, you’ll have a visual tribute to the person who died that will last for generations.
- Use an ash scattering cannon.
This device makes it easy to launch cremated remains into the sea or the air at a site that was meaningful to the deceased, even in windy weather. The cannon creates velocity that sends the ashes more than 70 feet into the air. You can even load the cannon with biodegradable confetti and/or streamers for a more festive effect.
Where to scatter ashes
The number of places where you can scatter cremated ashes is limited largely by your imagination. While it’s important to seek permission to scatter ashes on property that you don’t own, a surprising number of public and private venues, including many national parks and sports fields, are open to the practice. CLICK HERE for Ceremonies For Scattering Ashes
- National parks. Most of America’s natural parks, including Grand Canyon National Park, allow cremated remains to be “scattered” on park land with written permission from the head park ranger. Most parks require that the ashes be contained, as in a sand urn or a biodegradable pouch, so that they don’t pose a threat to wildlife in the park. They also require that you stay away from roads, any archeological digs and bodies of water.
- Your own garden. Sometimes the best solution to where to scatter a loved one’s ashes is in your own back yard. If family members intend to stay in the house or other property that was important to the deceased, there are few better ways of honoring that person than by creating a memorable garden and scattering all or a portion of the ashes among the flowers, bushes and trees.
- The beach and the ocean. Like parks, public beaches require permission before cremated ashes can be scattered on their property. However, if your family is lucky enough to own your own stretch of sand, you can use this property for scattering. In the United States, you are required to travel three nautical miles from land before you can scatter cremated remains.
- A sports field. While most major stadiums prohibit the scattering of ashes (citing too much demand), many minor league ball parks or private sports fields are more amenable.
- From the air. The Federal Aviation Association (FAA) has no restrictions on scattering cremated remains from the air, although most states have minimum altitude requirements. The wind at high altitudes can make scattering ashes from the air a challenge without some kind of assistance. (Ashes can, and have, blown back into the planes.) The scattering cannon can help make this process easier and more successful.
Cremation is a cost-effective, eco-friendly end of life decision. Honor the deceased life and memory by scattering his or her ashes in a place that had meaning in life. Using one of the newer scattering vessels and products can help make that process easier and more elegant.
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