What to Do with Cremated Ashes

By Jim Miller

Dear Savvy Senior,

A while back I saw an article on different ways to scatter a person’s ashes after cremation, but I’ve misplaced it. Can you help me with this? I’m preplanning my funeral and would like to include instructions on what to do with my remains.

Planning Ahead

Dear Planning,

There’s no shortage of options when it comes to handling or disposing of your remains after cremation. Your family can keep, bury or scatter them in a variety of imaginative ways that reflect your life and personality. Here are some different options to consider.

Scatter them: The most popular option is to have your ashes scattered at a location you loved to be, a favorite fishing spot, camping area, golf course, beach, park or at home. If you choose this route, keep in mind that some places, such as national parks, require a permit. And many public areas, like parks or sports stadiums may prohibit scattering.

Store them at home: Many families choose to keep their loved ones close, by storing them at home. If you and your family choses this option, you can purchase a decorative urn through your funeral provider or online at Amazon.com. Or you may want to use an old cookie jar or favorite container that reminds your family of you.

Bury/inter them: The burial option is good if you wish to have a special place for your family to visit. This is also the only option for cremated ashes sanctioned by the Catholic Church, which specifies that ashes of the dead should be kept in sacred places like a cemetery or a columbarium and not kept at home or scattered.

Plant them: If you’re the environmental type, you can have your ashes planted with a tree. There are companies that offer living urns — like TheLivingUrn.com or UrnaBios.com — that mix your ashes with other nutrients that can be used to grow a plant or tree in your yard or a place of your choosing.

Scatter them at sea: If you love the water, there are many businesses that offer ash scattering services at sea, especially close to coastal areas, or your family could rent a boat and do it themselves. There are also companies like EternalReefs.com that offer reef memorials so your ashes can rest on the ocean floor.

Scatter them by air: This option will scatter your ashes into the sky so the particles can be taken by the wind. To do this, they could hire a private plane, helicopter or hot air balloon service, or use a balloon scattering service like Mesoloft.com. Or they could even send your ashes into outer space with Celestis.com.

Turn them into a record: If you love music, a UK company called Vinlyly (Andvinyly.com) will turn your ashes into a vinyl record. You supply the music (or voice recording) and cover image, and the company creates a memorial that your family can listen to for years to come.

Turn them into jewelry or glass: If you love jewelry or glass trinkets, there are companies – like CloseByMeJewelry.com, SpiritPieces.com and ArtFromAshes.com – that will turn your ashes into wearable jewelry or glass art memorials.

Go out with a bang: If you’re a hunter or a gun lover, a company called Holy Smoke (MyHolySmoke.com) will create loaded ammunition out of cremated remains. Your family could store the ammo in the engraved wooden box it comes in, or they can send you off in a gun salute.

Turn them into art: If you love art, arrange for an artists or family member to paint your portrait, or a picture, with some of your ashes mixed into the paint. Or, if your family is into tattoos, many tattoo artists will mix some ashes with ink to create a memorial tattoo.

Jim Miller
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.