FINAL DESTINATION OF CREMATED REMAINS: EIGHT OPTIONS
Almost all cemeteries require that cremated remains, in an urn, be buried in an outer burial container made of fiberglass or some other material that will not decompose. A cemetery may require you to buy a burial container from them. The cemetery may also have rules about what type of urn you can use. It's unclear why cemeteries will not allow ashes to be poured directly into a grave and then covered over with dirt. Cemeteries charge a fee for opening and closing the grave. And you must purchase a grave marker.
The cremated remains in their container are placed in a niche or crypt. Cemeteries may have requirements for the type of remains container they'll accept, especially if the crypt spaces are glass fronted. An outer burial container is not required.
Burial in a place other than a cemetery
Some people want to bury ashes on private property. It is unlawful to bury them on public property. Regardless of your spiritual or faith tradition, if you like the idea of earth burial but dislike the additional commercial cemetery costs, and if a grave marker is not important to you, you're options for earth burial are limited only by your imagination - and the law, of course.
Burying ashes in a biodegradable urn tree-planting system
There are at least four variations of this gizmo on the market. The come-on is, “After you die, you will become a tree.” The science is far from clear whether the imbalance of nutrients and minerals in ashes actually contributes much of anything to the growth of a tree. And ashes do not decompose. That said, when the house is sold in 30 years, will family want to move the tree to a new house? What if after transplanting, the tree dies? And when that house is sold in 10 years, will the tree be moved again? If you decide to leave the tree, will someone tell the new owners someone’s ashes are buried in the yard? The law doesn’t require it, but does courtesy? For some, there’s an emotional appeal to believing you have Grandma, in the form of a tree, in the back yard. Emotional appeals generally have a short shelf life. What happens to ashes is a decision for the long term.
There are laws governing where cremated remains can be scattered on public land. Most people who scatter don't bother to check the law to find out what is and isn't permitted. It's more a matter of "Don't ask, don't tell." The same goes for pouring ashes directly into a lake or river or stream. Check with authorities or use common sense. If you scatter or pour, be aware that wind direction will affect whether ashes go where you want them to go or back in your face or on your clothes.
For those who want cremated remains to be interred in a cemetery, with permanent memorialization (name, dates), but find the cost of either burial or inurnment (see above) prohibitive, there's another option. Two Twin Cities area cemeteries now have an ossuary. Cremated remains (ashes) are poured into a below-ground chamber where they are co-mingled with the ashes of others. Name and dates are inscribed on granite blocks.
Lakewood Cemetery defines “ossuary” differently. At Lakewood, urns are placed adjacent to each other on shelves hidden behind a paneled wall. On the wall is a sculpture of a tree the leaves of which bear the names of those who’s ashes are in the ossuary.
Sometimes people keep the ashes of a loved one at home because they can't make up their mind what to do with them. Others decide to enshrine them in some fashion, such as placing them on a mantel. Or they simply aren't ready to release the last material remains of their loved one. Whatever the reason or duration, you need a final final destination plan. (see below.)
Turning ashes into a keepsake
You can have your loved one’s ashes turned into several different memorial keepsakes: pottery, dinnerware, jewelry, diamonds. If you go the jewelry route, you’ll have a lot of leftover ashes. There’s an emotional appeal to wearing a pendant or diamond ring, or eating off dinner plates, made out of Mom’s ashes. And if a plate is broken? “Oops. Sorry Mom.” Will that ring or pendant end up in a second-hand store in fifty years? You need a final final destination plan for such memorial keepsakes.
OTHER ISSUES TO CONSIDER
Remains kept at home
Does Mom want the kids to take turns caring for Dad's ashes after she's gone? After she dies, does she want her ashes mixed with Dad’s, and then divided equally among the kids? There's still the need for a final plan. Our culture doesn't have a tradition of passing bodily remains down the generations. And home-keeping cremated remains is only a temporary thing, even if "temporary" is several years or even decades. It's important to make a plan for the final final destination of your ashes.
Mailing cremated remains
The United States Postal Service (USPS) is the only shipper that allows the shipment of cremated remains. There are specific requirements for preparing, packaging, and shipping human (or animal) cremated remains. You must use Priority Mail Express, and clearly identify the contents. USPS even has a special Cremated Remains label (Label 139) available at your post office. An illustrated US Postal Service brochure, How to Package and Ship Cremated Remains, explains it all for you, including information on how to ship to an address outside the United States.
Flying with cremated remains
The Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) has special rules for transporting cremated remains in checked bags and as a carry-on item:
Some airlines do not allow cremated remains in checked bags, so please check with your airline to learn more about possible restrictions.
To facilitate screening, we suggest that you purchase a temporary or permanent crematory container made of a lighter weight material, such as wood or plastic.
If the container is made of a material that generates an opaque image, TSA officers will not be able to clearly determine what is inside the container and the container will not be allowed. Out of respect for the deceased, TSA officers will
not open a container, even if requested by the passenger.
Airline cremated remains policies differ from carrier to carrier. Delta’s Cremated Remains policy is under “Fragile, Bulky & Other Items.” United’s Cremated Human Remains policy is under “High value, fragile & perishable items.”
ALWAYS CHECK WITH YOUR AIRLINE BEFORE ATTEMPTING
TO FLY WITH CREMATED REMAINS.
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