Judy had not opened the box the funeral director had handed her almost a year ago. Just holding the bag when he handed it to her had made her knees buckle and she had to sit before falling. The reality was the earthly remains of her husband were inside the box and she just couldn’t face the reality that his glorious body has been reduced to a few pounds of ash. The scattering was to be in a month and the 6 x 6 box had never been opened. It was slowly building on her nerves and she knew she didn’t want the scattering ceremony to be the first time she confronted the reality. She knew she wanted to see , feel and smell the ashes in private before the ash scattering event. One sleepless night she knew it was time, her hand’s shook as cut away the brown tape and opened the box. She removed a twist tie from the plastic bag inside the box and there was John!. Tears fell like rain drops as she ran her finger through the John’s ashes.
She had read that the ashes were heavy and course. They were grayish and white and she imagined johns spirit talking to her as she examined the bits and pieces of bone ash. Her larger than life husband and best friend was now in the palm of her hand. She stroked the ashes and as marveled at the strange reality that seemed so unreal.
As she regained control of her emotions and feelings she realized the remains were still beloved and sacred. Nothing was scary anymore. She had already been devastated by her loss months ago and nothing could compare with the actual loss of her husband. Though she knew he was not in the box, she gained comfort speaking to the ashes and thanking John for the years of love. She could now be comfortable as she walked past the ashes as they rested on the mantel. Her sister had purchased an urn that was made for the scattering of ashes and together they put the ashes inside. Having the ashes in the handsome wood scattering urn made Judy remember his fondness of nature and trees. Her sister told her that after the scattering on Johns favorite hiking trail the urn was specially designed to serve as a memorial birdhouse that they would put in John’s garden.
As a funeral director and crematory operator for over twenty years it is good for me to share Judy’s story as it serves as a reminder that we in the funeral business do not simply handle ashes and urns. Like bodies and caskets we are honored to be entrusted with the care of others loved one’s. Like our physical bodies, ashes are our earthly remains and should be treated as so. The idea that so many in this business still hand over the ashes when a cremation urn is not selected, in the ugliest cardboard or plastic we can find disgust me! At least they should use a fancy gift box or tasteful cardboard urn. The reflection on your funeral business is also questioned. The time I heard a family member telling a friend that the cremation cost $2000.00 and they gave mom back to us in this box. That’s all I needed to hear to know it was wrong.
I was visiting a funeral director in Maine a few years ago and I was impressed when he showed me how his funeral home turned the ashes over to the family. Once the ashes were signed for he would guide the family member or members to a tasteful quite side room. There on a table in the corner of the room stood the urn. The warm glow of a white tapered nice candle flickered beside the urn and a fresh red rose laid at the base of the Cremation urn. Once in the room he would invite them to sit on the couch and take as long as they needed as he left the room. Some would take a minute and some an hour. The important part was they had the time and space for themselves as long as they needed. When they were ready they would let him know and he would then come and place the urn in a tasteful bag and offer to carry it out to the car. I learned from him, how less traumatizing this simple and dignified this thoughtful handover of ashes could be and I never handed another cremation urn over in a funeral home bag again. Remember we are creating an experience for the families we serve, this is just one way to show you care and are sensitive to the needs of the families who have entrusted your services.
The majority of people choosing cremation today will also choosing to scatter the ashes of their loved one. Most do not know where, only that it should be a special and sacred location.
A new service now allows funeral homes to assist these families by offering scattering in the most sacred location on earth, the holy land. A place of natural beauty where Jesus had lived and taught, overlooking the Sea of Galilee along the Jesus trail in Israel. Funeral homes anywhere can offer ash scattering in a professional and dignified way by partnering with Holyland Ash Scattering. This is just another way to show your funeral home understands the needs of today’s society, while offering new services and standing out in your profession. Learn more at www.holylandashscattering.com or call #888-720-1961