By Jim Miller
Dear Savvy Senior,
When my father passed away a few months ago, we had him cremated, but are now wondering what to do with his ashes. My sister and I would like to do something celebratory for his life, but aren’t sure what to do. Any suggestions?
No Instructions Left
If your dad didn’t leave any final instructions on what to do with his cremated remains (ashes), you have a wide array of choices. They can be kept, buried or scattered in a variety of ways and in many locations. Here are some different options to help you decide.
Keep close by
For many people, keeping the ashes of their deceased love one close by provides a feeling of comfort. If you fit into this category, you could keep his ashes in an urn on the mantel or in a cabinet, or you could also scatter some of them into your lawn or garden, shake them into a backyard pond or dig a hole and bury them. Another possible option is eco-friendly urns (like UrnaBios.com or EterniTrees.com) that contain a seed that grows into a tree or plant after being buried.
If you want your dad’s final resting place to be at a cemetery, you have several choices depending on how much you’re willing to spend. With most cemeteries, you can either bury his ashes in a plot, or place them in a cremation monument, a mausoleum or a cemetery building called a columbarium.
If you want to scatter his ashes, to help you chose an appropriate location, think about what your dad would have liked. For example, did he have a favorite fishing spot, camping area, golf course, beach or park that held a special meaning? These are all possibilities, but be aware to that if you choose to scatter his ashes in a public location or on private land, you’ll need get permission from the management, local government or the land owner.
National parks, for example, require you to have a permit before you scatter ashes. If you wish to dispose of them at sea, the Environmental Protection Agency asks you be at least three miles from shore. Beach scatterings are also illegal in some states, including California, but are rarely enforced. And many public areas, like Central Park and Disneyland prohibit scattering ashes too, as do most professional and college sports stadiums.
If you want to do something truly unique with his ashes, you have many choices here, too, but they can get pricy, ranging from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. Here are several to consider.
Scattering by air: This free-spirited option lets you spread your dad’s ashes into the sky so the particles can be taken by the wind. To do this, you could hire a private plane, helicopter or hot air balloon service, or use a balloon scattering service like EternalAscent.com or Mesoloft.com. Or, you could even send his ashes into outer space with ElysiumSpace.com.
Scattering by sea: If your dad loved the water, there are many businesses that offer ash scattering services at sea, especially close to coastal areas, or you could rent a boat and do it yourself. There are also companies like EternalReefs.com that offer reef memorials so your dad’s ashes can rest on the ocean floor.
Ashes to keepsakes: If you want a keepsake of your dad, you can also turn some of his ashes into a wide variety of memorabilia, such as: diamonds (see LifeGem.com or DNA2Diamonds.com); jewelry or other handcrafted glass items (ArtFromAshes.com and Memorials.com); vinyl records (Andvinyly.com); gun ammunition (MyHolySmoke.com); or an hourglass urn (InTheLightUrns.com).
Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.