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Myth busting at Tesside Crematoria

First and foremost I must apologise for plagiarism, not something I tend to do, but this really couldn’t be improved upon.  The main reason I reproduce like this on occasion is so that good stuff like this does not get lost in the morass that is the web. So I hope I can be forgiven – originally written by BY TONI GUILLOT with pictures from Ian Cooper. This aticle is from the Gazzette Live in Tessside – this ia the Link

The journalist asked Colin Duncan, bereavement services manager for Middlesbrough Council to answer a few questions and bust a few myths. Although these points are answered in other places on the site the detail is very informative.

Q. How many furnaces do you have?

A. We don’t call them furnaces or incinerators. As they are specifically designed for cremations, they are called ‘cremators’.

We have five of them here at Teesside Crematorium, two were installed when the crematorium was opened in 1961 and three were installed in 2010.

Q. How big are the cremators? Are they only big enough for one coffin?

A. A standard coffin for a cremation measures 28” wide and our cremators range from 28” to 42” wide.

They are not large enough to take more than one coffin at a time – and we have never attempted to.

Q. How long does it take to cremate a coffin? And what temperature do the cremators reach?

A. In our older cremators the temperature often reaches 1200°C although the modern cremators generally reach between 900 and 1100°C.

It normally takes about 80-90 minutes to complete a cremation although larger coffins sometimes take up to two hours.

Q. In an average working day, how many coffins are cremated?

A. We can provide up to 24 services per day, although we rarely have that many services.

On average throughout the year we have 11 services between our two chapels.

We can easily manage to complete all cremations on the same day, although there are very rare occasions when failures to one or more cremators cause us to have to delay a cremation.

Q. Do coffins get reused? Are the handles removed? Or are all coffins sealed?

A. Coffin lids are secured before they are brought to the crematorium and once a coffin has been placed on the catafalque – the wooden framework which supports the coffin – in the chapel, it is cremated with all its contents.

We let funeral arrangers know the sizes of our cremators so that the full coffin, including handles, can fit inside the hearth.

It’s very important therefore that, with the exception of certain surgical implants, whenever possible only natural, combustible materials are placed inside the coffin.

Q. How do you ensure that the ashes don’t get contaminated or mixed together?

A. After each cremation, the ashes are allowed to cool and the remains are swept into an ashes container.

In this way, the hearth is cleared of virtually all ashes from the previous cremation before another coffin is placed into the cremator.

An identity card with the name of the deceased accompanies the coffin to the cremator, and then accompanies the cremated remains throughout the remainder of the journey.

Q. Are pieces of jewellery or precious items removed from the coffin beforehand?

A. No. Funeral arrangers are encouraged to remove precious items before the service as they generally do not survive the process of cremation.

Crematorium staff never tamper with coffins or remove jewellery.

We follow a voluntary ‘Code of Cremation Practice’ which specifically requires us to cremate the coffin and all contents, and then to dispose of all cremated remains in accordance with the instructions that we have received from the funeral arranger.

Q. What happens to items which have not been cremated fully?

A. The remains of any jewellery or other items are either recycled with other metals from the coffin or returned to the applicant on request.

Teesside Crematorium takes part in a national not-for-profit metal recycling arrangement, which return all proceeds to local charities.

The applicant for each cremation is invited to take part in the arrangement and may decline if they wish. For cremations that take part in this arrangement, metal is removed after cremation.

Q. How long before the coffin goes into the cremator after the service?

A. Usually this happens immediately, but sometimes if we have had several services beforehand, the cremation may not begin for a few hours.

It virtually always happens on the same day and we would inform the funeral arranger if the cremation was going to be delayed until the following day.

Q. What is the quirkiest thing, if any, that has happened at a funeral service?

We once carried out a service for a helicopter pilot and at the beginning of the service a helicopter appeared over the chapel and took a bow before flying away.

And more recently we held a service for a lady who had graced the stage in local operatic and theatrical productions. And so as part of her service, when the time came for the curtains to be closed around the coffin, we arranged a brief curtain call which was received with great applause.

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Christmas – coping with bereavement

Christmas – coping with bereavement

Christmas can be a very difficult time of year. It’s always brings the family memories rushing forward, especially if it a first anniversary since your loved one passed away.

We have a few ideas for surviving Christmas but everyone is different so please do speak to others who have been through the experience, they may have some helpful advice. There are also lots of great charities who have great support websites which can be useful even if you don’t feel up to going along to one of their groups.

Make sure you know what you want to do

Christmas is a stressful time and many demands are placed on you by family, friends and colleagues. Do take time to think about how you want to spend the day so that you can deal with requests. You may want do something completely different, get away from home or volunteer in a soup kitchen. Or, you may prefer to gather your close family around you, or even cancel it altogether. Keep plans flexible so that you can decide when you know how you feel and change your plans if you want to.

Remember your loved one

Some people find it helpful to take time to remember their loved one, this might include a visit to the grave or wherever you have scattered the ashes, or a place that was special to them.

Make time to look through photos or memories with family and friends, it’s good to talk about them.

Look after yourself

It is very important to nurture yourself during this difficult time of the year, let others look after you. Simple things like hot baths and walks in the countryside or park can all help to lift your spirits.

Christmas is a time of over-indulgence and there is often a lot of alcohol being offered, whilst drowning the pain may seem like a good idea it is only a temporary solution and do remember it is a depressant. Exercise, if you can manage it, will make you feel better in the long-term

There is no right or wrong way

Grief is as individual as you are and your loved one was, there is no right way to grieve and also there is no wrong way.  If your emotions take over on the day, don’t feel alarmed, it’s perfectly natural. Just take some time to yourself. Keep talking and remember to be kind to yourself.


Useful Organisations

The Bereavement Advice Centre has a list of really helpful organisations including Cruse which offers psychological and emotional support in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Hope Again a wonderful charity that focuses on helping young people cope with loss.

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time crematoria

Did you feel you had long enough for your ceremony at the crematorium?

We asked the public whether they had long enough for their ceremony at the crematorium for their service?

Yes the length of time was right – 56.25%

Just a about enough time              – 16.25%

It was slightly rushed                      – 8.75%

It was far too short                           – 5.00%


This was the comments that that left:

  • My funeral director advised to book a triple slot as that worked out perfectly for the double funeral of both my parents. Coychurch Crematorium gave us the last 3 slots of the afternoon from 2.45pm so there was no funeral after ours and so there was no rush.
  • We had a double slot to allow for time to greet everyone following the ceremony.
  • [There was a ] Conveyor belt feeling, despite best efforts of staff to manage it.
  • Service time fine but when we come outside talking and thanking family and friends the next service was waiting respectfully for us to leave and it made their time slot late.
  • [The Crematorium] has one chapel with 30 minutes slots and this does not give any time when you have a larger attendance because we had 40 people attending some older and slower.
  • These days most crematoria are on an hourly service and Mansfield should adapt to this too
  • The service is dependent on who your funeral service is conducted by.
  • I booked a double session to allow people to arrive and leave unrushed.
  • Unknown until all is done
  • We asked for a longer service and they allowed us to do this

So in conclusion: for most people the time allowed seems appropriate, one might hope that the percentage was higher, suggesting to me that timings could be looked at so that it is up near the 80% mark, as one has to accept it it will never be entirely satisfactory for everyone.

The other thing perhaps worth noting was the many people in the comments section booked extended slots, which provided them enough time, a very interesting point was made that with a elderly congregation in large numbers had a serious impact on time.

Finally, I hope also that funeral directors and crematoria alike inform mourners that this an option, clearly one respondent was unaware that this was an option.

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ashes loo

How to honour a friend: flush him down the loo

Okay, so that might not be the first thing you think when considering the options for the ashes of a lifelong friend. However, that is what Thomas McDonald decided to do to honour his friend.

Any old toilets, you might be thinking? No, specifically those of baseball grounds in the US. Why? Well, firstly Mr McDonald and his pal were huge baseball fans and long-time supporters of the New York Mets (the baseball team based in the district of Queens in New York City). But why the toilet?! The second reason is that his friend was a master plumber and it seemed appropriate.

He had known his friend Roy Riegel since they were eight and had grown up together near the Shea Stadium.

To date Mr McDonald, has dropped some of the ashes of his friend in 16 Major League Baseball parks. He told the New York Daily News he had just one more visit to make before his pilgrimage was complete.

“I’ve been doing this for seven or eight years,” said McDonald, “We grew up since I was in the Cub Scouts when I was a little kid, known him since I was about 8. Was as big a Mets fan as I know.”

McDonald, began his odyssey by taking ashes and discreetly scattering a token amount of the ashes on trips to stadia around the States. Then one night in an Irish bar, he came up  this idea (one wonders how many great ideas have originated in Irish bars around the world!).

“I went to the bathroom and I was like, I know what to do, because he was … the best plumber you ever saw,”, “He was a master.”

So far, McDonald has scattered ashes in: Chicago, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Detroit and Baltimore, among others. He has even flushed Mr Riegel’s ashes in the toilet of his hotel room inside the Rogers Center in Toronto. But he does this all under a strict code: (1) the game must be in progress and (2) the ashes are always from a small bottle wrapped in old Mets ticket stubs.

He has even taken some back to Ireland to scatter at the Cliffs of Moher – a favourite destination of the deceased.

So now he has one final journey Durham Athletic Park in North Carolina, where the movie “Bull Durham” was filmed. “They give tours of the old park that they were still using when they filmed the movie in the 1980s still there, (so I’m) going to try and do that one there,” he said.

Whilst some may balk at this act, I like it, he is truly memorialising a friend. He has put thought, energy, care and commitment into his farewell and for that I salute him. The one small issue that in an old life I worked waste water world (sewage undertakers) and they didn’t half get on their high horse about things going down the loo that weren’t supposed to be there…

Original Story –



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Scattering ashes locations evoke a memory of how they lived

There is often a pull between scattering ashes at a cemetery or a specific ‘other’ location – a hillside, a beach, a view.

I came across this article My Father Has No Grave — So I Visit Him Where He Lived by Jesse Sposato

which is excellent and I would urge you to read it. Academics consider that when people choose a scattering location they are trying to create an environment of memory basically when you go to that place, you feel a greater sense of connection with that person.

Ms Sposato describes revisiting the location where she the family chose to scatter the ashes her father, he was a fisherman and the place was one of his favourite location, she describes the sense of him being there and her memory of him perhaps being more tangible / visceral whilst there. She then went onto visit a location where her father’s friend had scattered some of his ashes, somewhere where she was unfamiliar with, yet when she went on this the pilgrimage she felt a very strong connection to him and imagine him in that place, even though she had never been there with or without him.

As I do on occasion I have cut and paste the entire article (at the bottom) its not a plagiarism type thing, simply I would hate to lose such erudite and insightful material just because a website has arbitrarily chooses in the future to archive articles. So, Jesse please forgive, or let me know and I delete.

This desire to create a place of living memory contrasting with those who wish to give those coming after a sense of connection can be difficult. There are two simple solutions that you may (or may not) find suitable ideal. Split the ashes, have some in a formal setting and some more out in the environment, or record the place where the ashes were scattered and keep the document with the family records.

Anyway read on:

My Father Has No Grave — So I Visit Him Where He Lived


Last year, when our friend Alex* invited my boyfriend and I to come to Montauk for a few days, I was hesitant at first. Though it was the beginning of the summer and his place was down the block from the beach, I was on deadline for a story and I wasn’t sure about the timing. Despite this, my boyfriend convinced me to go — after all, I loved Montauk.

I grew up on Long Island and had fond memories of beach vacations there, but more than that, I loved Montauk because my dad, who died in 2012, loved Montauk. My father was a fisherman. Montauk was his place. That surely added to the appeal of going, but it wasn’t until I was on the fairly empty beach, during a walk, that I understood why it had been so important to go there. Standing alone facing the ocean, I suddenly felt my dad’s presence, sensed him near me. It was only then that I realized it had been three years that month since we’d come to Montauk, to this very part of this very ocean, to scatter some of my father’s ashes.

It was the first time I’d been back since and the smell of the briny air felt like my father —smelled like my father had smelled a thousand times, the salty ocean on his overly tanned skin when he’d come back from a few days out at sea.

For the rest of the weekend, I felt or saw my dad in everything I did. I shared stories about him, imagined him picking out lures when we went to the fishing store (my boyfriend fishes, too). The next morning, when I went for a run on the beach, I ran, barefoot, with a heightened sense of purpose, for miles, almost completely unaware of the bright sun beating down on me and the strenuousness of running on hard-packed sand. It was clear that I was going on a run alongside my dad’s ocean — that the run was mine, but also his. It was something we were sharing.

Later, when we went to lunch at the Clam Bar, I ordered what my dad would have ordered — fried calamari — and when we drove to Gosman’s Dock later that night, I looked out at the water and thought about how this was a place he’d surely been. I noticed everyone carrying a fishing pole, or who looked to be about my father’s age, and wondered if they had known my dad — had they been friends, shared a beer, or had they ever just unknowingly brushed past each other?

I went back to Montauk later that summer. Every time I go, I feel like I’m going to visit my dad. During one of my trips, I was out with my dad’s best friend Andy* and he introduced me to a woman I knew from my dad’s stories. I think about the look of deference and awe on her face when he said I was Paul Sposato’s daughter and my heart sinks. It was obvious that this was my dad’s Cheers. In a sense, all of Montauk was.

I didn’t expect to feel like the whole town was my dad’s cemetery, but I did — and I loved it. Though there was no actual graveyard or headstone to put flowers on, it was clearly a place where he resided. Where better to visit someone you love than somewhere they loved? Rather than a regular or stationary graveyard, it felt like a mobile one. It was more comforting to me than had he been buried in an actual cemetery, because this was a place where my father had lived. I got to visit him in a place where there was evidence of his rich life everywhere I went, rather than paying my respects to him among an immense lawn mostly filled with strangers.

I had a similar experience when, later that year, my boyfriend and I chose the Florida Keys as a mid-winter getaway. Again, one of the reasons I wanted to go was because my dad had loved it. It was a place he’d go to fish. I thought it’d be nice to see this region where he’d spent a lot of time, but I also thought the Florida Keys sounded beautiful and they were close by.

After booking the trip, I reached out to a few friends who knew the Keys well for recommendations, among them, Andy. He responded with a list of suggestions — where to eat, watch the sunset, go for live music, and said he’d call with more. When he called, it was to tell me a few places where he’d scattered some of my father’s ashes. The last trip my dad had planned before he died was to the Keys with his fishing buddies, only he wound up not making it — he died the month before the trip. Andy brought his ashes, instead, with the promise that he’d scatter them there. I’d always loved that gesture, but hadn’t really given much thought to where, specifically, he’d scattered them. For some reason I’d never thought about making a pilgrimage there. By the end of the phone call, I realized I was about to.

Andy explained where my dad’s ashes were. When he first mentioned one of the places, Sloppy Joe’s in Key West, I silently scoffed at the idea. My dad’s ashes were strewn across some bar…called Sloppy Joe’s? It sounded terrible. But once we finally mustered up the courage to check it out during our trip, it wound up being a magical experience. We ordered rum-runners, the local drink of choice, stood by the bar where Andy had told us he’d scattered his ashes (he’d been that specific), and watched as a bluegrass band of brothers took the stage.

As they played, I could feel my father not just there, but dancing. The vision was so clear — him in his tan cargo shorts and boat shoes, the way he moved, his smile, his laugh. I could hear him laugh the way he would when it would sound almost like a hiccup at the end; his teeth, slightly yellowed from years of smoking, showing, gleaming; his bad knee slightly awry. I could see my dad enjoying himself. I knew he’d had that kind of fun here and that, in some way, he always would.

I left there feeling like what I imagine people feel when they go to visit loved ones in cemeteries at their gravestones, only I had gone to visit my father at a place that he’d loved — and I had felt him come to life!

For me, it’s more comforting to sense my dad’s presence in these towns that he loved — and to enjoy them with that in mind — than to visit him in a cemetery that he had no real connection to. For the rest of my life, I will go back and visit those places with that in mind and feel a kind of solace I know I wouldn’t have felt were he to have been buried in a vast expanse of anonymity where he’d never felt joy.

*names changed

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child ashes scattering

Thoughts on scattering the ashes of a son

This is article written for The Australian, I have copied it out whole. I am not aiming to plagiarise. I want people to understand some of the thoughts and emotions of others in a similar situation. Especially articles that they would not have come across ordinarily. Ones such as this below by Tom Walton on scattering the ashes of his son. Many people have to suffer the incomprehensible pain of losing a child, so sharing understanding or emotions is I hope helpful in some way. Enough of me twittering on.

This (bittersweet) life


Some years ago my wife and I owned an apartment on a beach not far from where we lived. Over the years, we enjoyed many weekends and holidays there with our two young boys.

Early most mornings I would take a walk on the beach with the boys, enjoy a bracing swim, and look out for any flotsam or jetsam the overnight tide might have deposited. With shrill cries of excitement the boys would rush up and down the beach and bring me their discoveries, to be identified and admired.

One morning they found a small carved wooden box at the water’s edge and proudly brought it to show me. On closer examination I noticed a small brass name plate attached to the lid and I realised the box must have at some time contained a person’s cremated remains.

Seated on the beach, as the sun’s early rays spread across the sands, we engaged in an earnest discussion about life, death, burial, cremation, what happens when you die and where you go. Due to the profound nature of this subject and as is often the case when dealing with young minds, there were many more questions than I had answers. Several questions simply had to be dealt with on the basis of “I don’t really know but give me a chance to read up on it”.

After we spent some time trying to imagine who this person might have been, we reverently buried the box well above the high-water mark and walked back in a quiet and thoughtful mood to have breakfast.

A few years later we sold the apartment, moved state and did not return, having discovered several other holiday destinations as our sons grew to adulthood.

Recently my wife and I revisited the beach after many years. We had come to scatter the ashes of our youngest son, who had died tragically in Queensland. As it was low tide we waded into the sea and carefully emptied the ­funeral urn, watching his ashes swirl away to nothingness. We were overcome with emotion as we recalled how much he loved this place as a child, the countless holidays, and now the bittersweet memories that remain with us.

For a long while we sat in silence on the beach, arms around each other, as we savoured the tranquil scene. It was a glorious morning as seagulls swooped and circled, and the sun glistened on the sparkling water. Then we rose to our feet, dug a deep hole in the sand well above the high-water mark and reverently placed his empty urn in there.

We know there is a circle to life, a beginning and an end that applies regardless of one’s faith. Through our tears we sensed a gentle feeling of peace and closure, as this inevitable circle was fulfilled for him. Though we would learn that there is no end to mourning a dead child.

What a lovely piece. You can find the original article here:


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Celebrity ash scattering ceremony: David Gest

Celebrity ash scattering ceremony at Clifford’s Tower in York

David Gest TV impresario and ex husband of Liza Minnelli passed away in April this year and after a public funeral in Golders Green in London, his nearest and dearest decided that York would be the most appropriate place to scatter his ashes.

David loved the city and had said that was where he wished to die, he had even quipped that he wanted his ashes to be scattered outside a sandwich shop called the York Roast Company where he was a frequent visitor.

Instead the estate choose to scatter the ashes from the iconic Clifford’s Tower within the city. Imad Handi, David’s close friend and co-producer, explained: ‘He said that in his estate if he passed away he just wanted somewhere nice in York. We decided it was a peaceful place.’

The ceremony was small, in celebrity terms, around 20 close friends and family gathered. A pastor led a short service on the turret, which included a reading by David’s sister. The ashes were scattered over the grass below and then white doves and balloons were released.

Clifford’s Tower, which is managed by English Heritage was closed for the day to allow the service to take place. A spokesman for English Heritage, custodians of the tower, added: ‘We were approached by David Gest’s family who asked if they could scatter his ashes from the top of Clifford’s Tower in a small, private memorial.’, ‘As he was an adopted son of York, we thought it an appropriate thing to do for his family.’

Rather bizarrely the Mail interviewed the sandwich shop owner Wayne Chadwick who thought the ashes were coming his way and had assumed the scattering would take place at the shop, and was a little disappointed when they didn’t. He was quite philosophical, he is quoted as saying ‘I am a bit disappointed. But we don’t have any rights over what was to happen to the ashes and if his inner circle wanted to scatter them without any publicity I can understand that.

‘There were practical difficulties in disposing of the ashes in a land-locked shop so from a respect point of view I wanted to leave the final decision to David’s friends and family.’

This little story is quite revealing, what is pleasing for us is that the ashes ceremony was an important part of the farewell. The ceremony was more attuned to the deceased way of life, more celebratory, more unique, less funereal. The use of the clergy, doves and balloons all adding to the occasion. This is, as we say, a proper #4thceremony.

Finally I indulge myself  in the fantasy that Gest’s nearest and dearest found inspiration for the choice of location on the website. However, I do find the decision to close Clifford’s tower done for the day rather odd. I wonder whether English Heritage would do this for the likes of ordinary folk? They have certainly set a precedent, whether they were handsomely compensated in donation terms or just ‘free to those that can afford it, very expensive to those that can’t’. I wonder why they didn’t just have an evening service and close slightly early…?

Original story:

#4thceremony #DavidGest #ashesscattering #York

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scattering ceremony shrophire

A family scattering ceremony in Shropshire

Family scattering ceremony in Shropshire

The following piece is copied unedited straight from the Family Section of the Guardian newspaper. I believe it captures a very British scattering ceremony: the emotions, the situation and the actions – I would encourage everyone to read it.

You would never think to take a screwdriver when scattering your grandmother’s ashes. At least, I didn’t. I may have spent many happy afternoons rooting through her toolbox (she is still the only grandmother I’ve ever met who owned her own set of files and wrenches) but it simply didn’t occur to me that we might have to come tooled up for the occasion.

At the beginning of this year, my mother, sister, new boyfriend and two women who, like all the best friends, have become adopted members of our chosen family, trudged up a muddy hill in the middle of rural Shropshire to return my grandmother to the land from which she sprang.

It was neither grand nor particularly remote. It smelled of wet grass and wood smoke. But it was, nonetheless, apt. For my grandmother, born in 1916 and who lived her entire life in a single county, was a woman absolutely of the earth – she had a voice like gravel, a will like granite, grew food in her own soil and was the rock on which an entire family was built. Throughout my turbulent life, she was the only person I could ever place with absolute certainty. I knew, without doubt, where she was sitting, when she was eating and what she was doing at any hour of any day. She was immovable, elemental. When she wore a girdle, kissing her face was like climbing a rock face; when she was saying goodnight, she was as soft as moss.

So I found myself sliding up a pocked and tufted hill overlooking the village of Much Wenlock, in jodhpurs and heeled boots, carrying a wooden box of her ashes. Ironically, for a family whose sporting achievements begin and end with the ability to get out of a chair unaided, this was also the birthplace of PE, thanks to that tyrant of the string vest William Penny Brookes, who held the first Olympian Games there in 1850. God knows what Brookes would have made of our wheezing ascent. There were a few, quiet murmurs of alarm as we shambled our way past a herd of huge, horned cows. The wind whipped around my ears and the rain continued to fall. It wasn’t exactly ancient Greece but it did feel like an odyssey.

Then, as so often in life, things descended from epic to farce. My mother slid her fingers under the lid of the small engraved box in which my grandmother’s ashes had spent Christmas and New Year, and pulled. It didn’t budge. She pulled again. Absolutely nothing.

As a cold drop of rain trickled down the inside of my jumper, we turned the box over to discover that the entire thing was screwed shut. Firmly, undeniably shut. We held our breath. There was silence. I began to laugh. Quiet, embarrassed snorts at first, but these soon gave way to full, honking, goose-like laughter. Here we were, standing in a grieving circle, upon this blasted heath, teeth chattering, cowering under umbrellas, clutching soggy bits of paper scrawled in ink with eulogy and prayer, trying to break into the last earthly remains of my most loved grandmother. There was nothing to do but laugh.

The ribbon on which life is held is bound on one side with laughter and the other side with grief. This is as true in the moment of memorial as it is in celebration. So I feel no guilt for my laughter. My grandmother was an incredibly funny woman. She had more witty comebacks, more withering one-liners and more razor-sharp insights than anyone I’ve ever met. Never cruel, never boring, never imposing – she could simply tell it like it was and in the process charm an entire room. So I think – hope – she would have laughed too. After all, this was the woman who could drink jockeys under the table. This was the woman who flirted with the handyman who came to fix her bed after the combined weight of overnight guests had bent its frame. This was the woman who laughed to the point of tears when her son tickled her. This was the woman who told us all on her birthday last July that she would wait to see Christmas and then let go.

In the absence of a multitool, I had a go at some of the screws with my smallest house key. They didn’t budge. My poor boyfriend searched his pockets desperately for a pen knife. Nothing. Finally, my mother marched right back down the hill and knocked on the door of the nearest farm. In her best demanding voice, she asked if she could borrow a screwdriver, “So I can scatter my mother under that tree.”

The man on the threshold barely flinched before padding into his kitchen to look for a suitable tool.

At last, as we huddled in the rose bushes giggling, a screwdriver was located. Once again, we began our sole-sucking, watery ascent to that tree, overlooking that hill and the old vicarage in which my mother was raised. Perhaps it is easier to be practical in the face of death in the countryside. After all, not more than 20 feet away, in an old red brick outbuilding, my mother used to peer in at the small furry bodies of pets and livestock that could not be saved by my grandfather’s gentle, veterinary hands. Death and life turn like a wheel across rural England, through days, through seasons and through years. You cannot have one without the other. Just as you cannot have laughter without also knowing sadness.

Once we’d got to the top of the hill, my mother held the small bag of ashes – the dust and grit to which we all must, eventually, return – against her chest. My sister said the prayer taught to us all by my grandmother. We looked at an old photograph, I said a few words. The rain fell, the cows tore leaves from brittle branches, a windmill turned in the distance. And then it was time to let her go. To scatter to the earth and air the last tangible pieces of a woman who will live on not just in anecdote but in our genes; the curls in my hair, the blood in my mother’s thumbs, the beating of my sister’s heart.

As I watched a cloud of whiteness skirt dangerously close to my boyfriend’s coat, watched specks of grey settle on the hoof print of a cow, saw ash mingle with earth and rain, I continued to smile. Later, as we trudged back down the hill for a pub lunch, returning that vital screwdriver and steaming our coats before an open fire, we carried on laughing. Because that is what families do.

Families are collections of people woven together by shared stories – some dramatic, some tragic and some hilarious. We live and die in the tales we tell. We are knitted into being not just with blood, but also with words. And so this story about my grandmother’s ashes is one I hope to tell my own grandchildren one day.

The central mishap of urn, brings out the humour that is so often present yet sometimes denied or tinged with guilt. What is more it can’t be the first time this has happened to a family and now although most people opt for scattering the information that was needed on the practical side clearly had not been passed on.

It is interesting I see that the family had considered the aspects of their ceremony before embarking on their ‘odyssey’: the photo the prayer the words. And notable too was that they had not held on for better weather nor that the group was entirely made up of the family quorum, but included non-family members too.

This is not an untypical ceremony even down to the perilously near miss with the ashes on the wind. One final point on the choice of location: the vantage point, where the location allowed the group to take-in more visual aspects of their loved one’s world.

A beautiful piece Nell Frizell, considered, eloquent and thoughtful.

Here is a link to the original article:


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Lincolnshire scattering ahes

Scattering mum at Gibraltar point


This is a lovely piece about a daughter, her siblings and offspring returning their mum to the area where she grew up, at Gibraltar Point in Lincolnshire in the UK to scatter the ashes. From the BBC magazine online:

 ‘Who said scattering ashes was easy?‘

The lady’s emotions are those shared by many, rather than cut ‘n’ paste the whole article I would like to highlight a number of points:

  • The family choose to scatter at their mum’s ashes at childhood home rather than a plot which was alongside her husband’s
  • Even after the decision was made it took two years to make the journey to scatter the ashes, which is quite a typical length of time
  • “I was so glad that the kids came. They lightened our spirits and organised games. It was a real happy family time and the weather was gorgeous.” – The presence of children being involved seems to be a active consideration for many, however I have yet to read any article regretting it.
  • The fact the ashes blew about and landed on people and the subsequent fact that this brought amusement and lightened the mood: again another very common occurrence.
  • Finally the lovely summing up “When I looked around at all of us, here together, I knew we had come to the right place at the right time. Mum would have loved it. I loved it. I have a photograph of the dune, on a remote sandy beach, facing the roaring sea with a brilliant blue sky above it – Mum’s view. It looks like paradise to me and it always makes me smile. I can’t remember her funeral much but I’ll never forget the ashes!” 
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ashes into fireworks video

Ashes in Fireworks: a lovely Guardian article


I suppose it is because we get regular enquirers about putting ashes in fireworks that I don’t think there is anything unusual or strange about it, but I suppose we are a bit more exposed to it than most, so when the Dearly Beloved passed the Family Section of the Guardian across the breakfast table the other week and said: have a look at this – a lady scattering her mum on Richmond Park using fireworks – it is a lovely piece.  I did have a look, Indeed I thought what a lovely piece and then I thought do people still think this is left-field? I took a straw pole among friends later that day, using less than scientific rigor I will be honest, but nevertheless I discovered that indeed it probably was.

So here is the article:

I thought there was superb insights, particularly when the Author Abigail Flannagan is asking her mother to take it a bit easy:  “I refuse to live a boring life,” she told me one afternoon when I’d been nagging her about slowing down; drinking less and not using budget airlines like buses. “I already can’t do so many things I’d like to, so forget giving up wine or anything else. I’d rather a few more years of fun, than a dull existence for decades. It’s my life, my choice.”

And the detail about nearly hitting a runner with the first firework – opps!

My normal modus operandi is to critique and question such articles, yet here it is all set out to understand and appreciate.

My one slight issue would be to disagree that this is an un-British approach, Ms Flannagan (gosh this sounds so pompous when you write like this and christian names sound too informal) writes: there was a collective acceptance and innate understanding that it was both utterly possible and utterly plausible that Mum would have wanted something so essentially un-British as frivolity and freedom of expression in death, and therefore it was neither questioned as a concept or action. I would argue that as a nation we are very much up for something a bit more ‘loud and proud’. It is true we are still reluctant to speak about death,  but when you do get people on the subject (particularly Baby-Boomers and younger) there is a much more celebratory approach wished for and fireworks resonate with the vast majority.

So I say done you Judi Smith for going out with a Bang!

Note: the photo is copyright Guardian – it seems the most appropriate

Professional Photographer needs your help on scattering stories – ‘HERE I AM’

photographer project scattering ashes

Can you help me?

I am looking for stories of why and where ashes have been scattered.

‘Here I am’ is a photographic project I started a couple of years ago based around the themes of memory and loss.
I had been working with the NHS on an End of Life project, which entailed talking to people who were near the end of their life and asking them the best way to make things as easy as possible for them. This included what they would like to happen to their bodies after they had passed away.
This got me thinking about where I might like my ashes scattered, but also how and why and where people scatter the ashes of loved ones.

So far, I have received many stories telling me the reason why people had scattered the ashes of their loved ones in a specific place. These have been heart-warming, emotional, funny and poignant.

I have been a professional photographer for over twenty years and am taking photographs of the locations, (not the actual scattering) which are accompanied by the stories sent in……..but I need more. (Only first names would be used in the text.)

Have you scattered the ashes of a loved one in a particular place for a particular reason?

Do you know of someone whose ashes were scattered in a particular place for a particular reason?

Please do get in touch to tell me your story or to find out more and please do spread the word.

Your Name (required)

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Your Message

You will need to tick the following box - it cuts out spam

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beach scattering burham on sea

Scattering Ashes a Rainbow and the Daily Mail


The Daily Mail carries quite a few stories on scattering ashes probably more than the rest of that the UKs national papers put together, why that should be I can only hazard a  guess. I am told that paper has an in-depth knowledge of it readers (I suppose it should really), so I presume its reader visit us too?! Here is a story of a widower and his daughter spotting a rainbow that appeared to arc down to the lighthouse where he scattered his wife’s ashes.

The retired scientist living in Burham on Sea decided to scatter to the ashes of his wife at the Trinity  lighthouse near where they lived. He and his daughter and son in-law where sitting on a memorial bench, he had bought to commemorate his wife, when they saw the rainbow ‘pointing’ to the spot.

Mr Walker said: ‘It was incredible. It must have been a sign.

‘I don’t really believe in God but I think this must have been a spotlight shining down from heaven.

‘It’s amazing that my daughter managed to get a picture of it on her phone.’Vera used to love the beach, we’d walk up and down it and we’d often take my daughter’s dog with us too. She was such a lovely person.’A lovely story I think, what I find interest too is reading the commentary on the story from the Mail-online readers. This little story had 42 comments which seems a lot but I guess they have a massive readership. The commentary was split down a number of lines religious and nonreligious – was this a act of God? Judging by the ‘thumbs up’ / ‘thumbs down’ I would say  the audience was equally divided. Then you had a few know-it-alls keen to spout their scientific reasoning for the  phenomena  (mainly men) and a few arr bless comments (mainly women).  Although after reading them I didn’t feel any more enlightened, however judging by the voting the readers didn’t like heartless commentary or pedants, but gave a big thumbs up to the warm and loving comments, which is heartening.

Read more:

ve a

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creamtion ashes cause mall shutdown

A man causes panic and a Mall shutdown after scattering his fiancée’s ashes

A shopping mall in Sarasota, which is on the west coast of Florida in the USA, went into shutdown after a man was observed scattering an unknown substance on the floor of LensCrafters opticians in the Southgate Mall.

Thomas Morin inadvertently triggered a full scale alert when carrying out the last wishes of his recently departed fiancée. This innocent, if somewhat ill-conceived plan, resulted the following: 25 police officers; 10 fire trucks; shut down of the mall for more than two hours including: every entrance to the mall closed with crime scene tape; all workers and customers told to “shelter in place” during the incident; and all being prevented from leaving the mall. They even had the FBI taking samples!

About an hour after the incident occurred, a hazardous materials team took a sample of the powder and determined it was not hazardous.

Mr Morin a retired electrician said: “I was just scattering ashes — a last request,”.

“Right now it sounds like I’m a monster. I scattered her ashes at other places too — the beach and stuff — places where she was happy.”

“I’m getting grief counselling,” he said. “The police chief said she’s got surveillance of me walking around the store scattering ashes. That’s all there was to it. I didn’t want to scare anyone.”

Poor chap, at least Police have told Mr Morin will not face any criminal charges.

So the four lessons I consider to taken from this are – when some people say it is better to ask for forgiveness rather than permission – take a sense check on that. In the US the balance between civic protection and the right to bear arms may be slightly out of kilter. Cremation ashes are non hazardous according to the FBI. Opticians, particularly the LensCraft Company, are nice places to work…

You don’t need words to say goodbye

We often think we need words to fill our world, here two brothers (presumably) are scattering the ashes of their father in a tranquil and beautiful setting. Nothing is said apart from one enquiring whether the bag containing the ashes is to be washed out with the sea water.

I like it. I always think there should be words noise and such, but this meant a lot to them, they had clearly gone to some trouble so each to their own I say.

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anglers ashes

The forever fisherman: an anglers choice

People who have a passion for a sport often choose to have their association enshrined with their ashes. So whilst the request Mr Peter Hodges, an angler from Somerset final wish may seem strange to many, to others it has perfect resonance.

When Mr Hodge, at the age of 60, discovered that had motor neurone disease he decided that as a final request he would have his ashes mixed into his secret ground-bait recipe and flung to the fishes.

Mr Hodge had been a keen angler since the age of 20 and his favourite spot was on the River Huntspill, near Bridgewater in Somerset where he could usually be found with his rod and line.

After he was cremated his ashes were mingled with 30lbs of fish food and his wife and daughter were the first to catapult them into river to signal the start of a fishing competition for Hodges’s friends.

Mrs Hodge, 56, said: “Pete always said that when he died he wanted his ashes to be mixed in with ground-bait.

“He wanted the fish to gobble him up so he could swim up and down the river after his death.

“Everything that he wished for was done right down to the last. It was only right for us to carry out his final wishes.”

Before he died Mr Hodge said: “It may sound strange but it is my dream; to be back in the river catching fish is where I belong. I hope my friends make me proud with their catches.”



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A fairway farewell? The golfer’s dilemma


Are you a golfer or was your loved one a golfer? Are you thinking of scattering your/their ashes on a golf course? If the answer is yes to these questions then read on.

I found an excellent article by a chap named Mark Donavan who has considered the angle very thoroughly from a golfer’s point of view. I have copied out the article in full and provided a link at the bottom to the original.

It is funny to hear an opinion from a golfers perspective, Scattering Ashes website was born out of my experience of scattering my fathers ashes at his golf course in Northamptonshire, England. We chose the fairway of the 11th hole, he suffered badly with angina he had to call it a day on the 11th and sadly, although he didn’t know it, it was to be his last round. It was his joy and passion, we even had to wait until he had got his round in before we went on holiday!

It would appear there are many deliberations for the golfing fraternity:

  • Home course or distant mecca?
  • Fairway or green?
  •  Favourite view or beautiful spot?
  • Greatest triumph or the hole that could never be mastered?

The one thing that seems to ring true with most golfers was ‘not around a tree’ as this seems to where most tend to take a leak!

One thought from me is that perhaps some consideration should given to where the ashes of the spouse will be spread, doesn’t seem all that fair if they want to be with you when they pass, they hated the blessed sport and have to spend eternity occupying the dog-leg of a par 4. Perhaps consider the authors suggestion at the end.

Anyway enough of me, enjoy! I did …

I have the spot all picked out. At Royal Dornoch there is a path that leads uphill from the sixth green to the seventh tee, and at the top is one of the most sublime vistas in all of golf. The glorious links are displayed at our feet; we can see no fewer than nine flags snapping in the breeze. The Sutherland hills are crouched behind us, Dornoch Firth sparkles invitingly just beyond the broad expanse of beach, and the red and white bands of Tarbat Ness lighthouse are clearly visible in the distance. If it happens to be springtime, the gorse-covered hill we are standing on is a blaze of vibrant yellow. Yep, that’s the spot—that’s where I want my ashes spread once I have gone to the great scorer’s tent in the sky.

From Asheville, North Carolina, to Ashtabula, Ohio, under cover of darkness or in the broad light of day, countless golfers who have posted their final score have had their ashes strewn on their favorite links. It’s impossible to determine exactly how many have turned Olympia Fields, say, into Elysian Fields, but my conservative estimate is hundreds, if not thousands, a year.

Legendary architect Alister MacKenzie (Augusta, Cypress Point) may have initiated the practice when he died in 1934 and reportedly had his ashes spread on his favorite par-four hole, the sixteenth at Pasatiempo in California. John A. Mulcahy, the Irish-American industrialist who rescued Ireland’s splendid Waterville links from insolvency in the 1960s, recognized the importance of being urn-ish. His ashes are buried on the tee of Waterville’s seventeenth hole, which is now known as Mulcahy’s Peak. Putting guru George Low Jr., who died in 1995, had it both ways: Some of his ashes are buried next to a practice green at Cog Hill outside Chicago, and some were strewn over a lake on the nearby eighteenth hole of Cog Hill No. 4 (Dubsdread).

Bury Me in a Pot Bunker is the title of a Pete Dye book, and the author means for that directive to be taken literally. He’s not particular—”any ole pot bunker or ditch is fine with me,” says the eighty-one-year-old architect. Arnold Palmer, who grew up playing at Latrobe Country Club, writes in A Golfer’s Life that he would like to have his ashes spread “out there somewhere near my Pap’s on one of the club’s fairways.” Lee Trevino’s instructions are typical of the Merry Mex. “My ashes will be spread on some golf course,” he has said. “I don’t care which one. I’ve told my wife to make sure you reach in there, and if you don’t find two steel rollers and a metal plate, those aren’t my ashes.”

Caddies have their favorite golfing haunts as well. Before the 2003 Players Championship, Brad “The Russian” Krosnoff, a longtime PGA Tour caddie, had his ashes strewn over the water surrounding the seventeenth green at Sawgrass. A few years back, the ashes of a pair of PebbleBeach loopers known as Dawg and the Phantom were sprinkled off the eighteenth green in a joint ceremony one misty morning.

One has so many touchstones, so many meaningful experiences over the span of a lifetime, why choose a golf course as a final resting place? Armchair psychologists have a ready answer for that one. Golf, they say, is a religion, and golf courses are places of worship, so it’s logical for the devout to choose a site that is sacred to them. “I haven’t told my wife yet,” says a nine-handicapper from Long Island who wants his ashes strewn on the ninth fairway of his home course, “but perhaps I should, so she’ll get a sense of how important golf is to me.”

Laws vary from state to state, but as a rule permission to spread ashes is required from the property owner—whether it’s public or private land. Some clubs allow it and some do not, but among those where it is forbidden, the policy seems to be “Don’t ash, don’t tell.” “Our official position,” says the manager of a major-championship venue, “is that it’s not permitted. Unofficially, we know it happens from time to time.”

PineValley has no official policy on the spreading of ashes. Uncertain what response he would receive if he made a formal request, one member decided to proceed on the q.t. when his father died a few years back. The site of the covert operation was the fourteenth hole, a dramatic 185-yard par three. “My dad used to put his arm around me on that tee,” recalls the member, “and say, ‘If I could choose one hole in the world to have a hole in one, this would be it.'” Dad never made that ace, but after he passed away, his son orchestrated the next best thing.

Dad’s ashes were smuggled onto the course in four baggies tucked inside a Titleist box. When the foursome reached the fourteenth green, each player took a baggie and walked to one of the four corners of the putting surface. From those points they moved toward the hole, pouring the ashes in a line as they walked, sprinkling the last of them in the cup. “The next few times I played the hole,” says the son, “I could do no wrong. I could feel my father’s presence.”

Riverside Golf and Country Club in Portland, Oregon, has a more open approach than PineValley does. When fifty-six-year-old Ron “Brogie” Brogan died suddenly in 2004, his memorial service at the club was attended by some two hundred fellow members and golf buddies. At the conclusion of the service, the master of ceremonies announced that Brogie wanted his ashes dispersed at Riverside, with one important caveat: “Under no circumstances will you spread me under any tree.” The men in the room, all of whom had no doubt watered a tree or two at Riverside, roared with laughter.

With his golf bag strapped on the back and his ashes jouncing on the passenger seat, Brogie’s cart was driven out to the 150-yard marker on the eighteenth hole. The pro made some appropriate remarks, dipped a small cup into the urn and cast the ashes to the wind. Others weren’t so respectful. One attendee dug a hole in a nearby bunker, poured some ashes in and then covered them up with sand—an unplayable lie for all eternity. Another guest filled divots with the ashes, which had an unexpected side effect. The next morning, the sprinklers on eighteen were turned on as usual. When the water came into contact with the ashes, the divots were calcified, and soon golf balls were bouncing off Brogie every which way. Sounds like he got the last laugh after all.

Members at other clubs often detect a more benign attitude from their departed brethren spread around the links. “Many of us who play in the early morning or late in the day feel the presence of our old friends in the shadows,” says an officer of a private club on Chicago’s NorthShore. “Some of us swear that a ball we hit is going to end up in the trees or on the beach, but when we get there, the ball is sitting up in the fairway or even on the green.”

Golfers face a number of decisions when choosing a permanent residence: home course or distant mecca, fairway or green, a favorite view or the site of a hole in one? Scott Masingill, a trucking company executive and sometime Champions Tour player, has left instructions for his ashes to be spread about 285 yards from the tee in the sixth fairway at Scotch Pines, his home course in Idaho. The particular area in Masingill’s fairway to heaven is known, appropriately enough, as “the crematorium,” because “if you hit your drive there,” says Masingill, “it’s creamy.”

The aptly named James Ashwanden, a fifty-six-year-old golfer from Kent, England, has a couple of candidates in mind, but his home course is not among them. Right now he’s leaning toward St. Enodoc, a hilly marvel in Cornwall that is home to the famed Himalaya bunker. Ashy, as he was called in prep school, is undecided about precisely where he would like to spend day after day (after day). “Do I go for a place where I’ve experienced the greatest satisfaction?” wonders the sixteen-handicapper. “Or should I choose a hole that I’ve never truly conquered?” Wherever he ends up, Ashy has already scripted the words he wishes spoken as his remains are released into the wind: “‘May they fly more accurately than his approach shots; may they land gently on the green.’ God,” he pauses, envisioning the scene, “I really want to be there.”

As for me, I’m all set. Or am I? I hear the siren song of another course crying out for consideration: Taconic Golf Club. The place where I learned to love the game. Home to so many of my indelible golfing memories. Dating back to my college days, I have made regular pilgrimages to this picturesque gem in north western Massachusetts. My thoughts turn to the third tee. The hole is a beautiful 409-yard par four, with a stand of birch trees and a winding stream on the right, a stretch of pines running down the left side of the fairway. The green is framed, in the distance, by a pair of majestic mountains. A perfect drive splits the V that they form. It’s a view I could look at . . . forever.

So, what’s it going to be: Dornoch or Taconic?A veritable Sophie’s Choice for the hereafter. There’s only one solution.

Memo to loved ones: Divide and conquer.

By Mark Donovan

scattering ashes on a golf course

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scattering in arizona

Scattering Roxanne in Arizona

scattering in arizona

Below is a five minute video that had been posted on YouTube entitled Spreading Ashes – Spreading Roxanne’s ashes at Bell Rock in Sedona, Arizona.

Why it was upload and for whom I am not sure, but clearly by the emotion shown it was still quite raw for those involved. It is not an easy viewing, but do not let that put you off watching it or thinking that is how you would feel.

It was kind of those involved to share their experiences and emotions which are not untypical of many families. Whilst in no way taking away from their ceremony, there are a number of  points I would like to draw out for you, if are aiming to scatter a loved ones ashes.

They use difficult receptacle to scatter ashes from, it may be wise putting it into something else first, eg a scattering urn or similar.

The ceremony was really quiet apart from a few words from the main character (it is the ashes of his sister), the central man asks once he holds it ‘ What shall I do? scatter some and pass it on?’ .  However only two of the small party  of the attendants took it in turns to thinly scatter over the spot, being careful to keep it in one area. Then carefully stepping, avoiding where they had scattered. Without anyone guiding or help them why would they would know that more could be made of the ceremony eg reading or poetry or memory.

I thought this was exemplified when one of the men concluding the scattering says ‘I never knew there would be so much’ which is such a common experience.

One man leaves something in the tree as a marker but this is difficult to work out what or why.

Seeing this ceremony natural uncut does help us all to think how you could carry out your own ceremony. And I would like thank those who posted it for sharing their experience.



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scattering ashes in wales

Scattering in Maes y Mynydd – letting a friend go

I came across a post by the artist and illustrator Jackie Morris, she has shared her experience of scattering the ashes of a close personal friend called Glyn.

It is a lovely piece from a cleared talented artist. Strangely enough I had a look at her Facebook page to see if I had seen her work before, I recognised her style, turns out she is the illustrator for a book I love reading to my kids – East of the Sun West of the Moon. Sorry for digressing.

Her story really takes you there; this is a solitary scattering with just her and the ashes of her friend. As with many people she is surprised by their weight. She takes a walk to an abandoned cottage where her friend had expressed a wish to be scattered. When she arrived she was confronted by the thought that many of us wonder: how do you scatter the ashes? She chooses to use her hands and throw each handful onto the wind. What I really loved is that each casting she chooses to reflect on a different stage of her friend’s life, from a boy to a young man, then on into adulthood – really powerful and thought provoking.

The piece is also captured by lovely photography (I have borrowed and referenced it for this post, if you read this Ms Morris I hope you don’t mind)

Here is her post

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cremains ashes skydive

Skydiving ashes video

What a way to go, this is celebrating a life in style!

We offer a service to release cremation ashes during a a skydive. Whilst this is not one organised by us us I thought you may find it interesting – I thought it was great, particular the sound track a sort of Spanish version of ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’  – Well done Gary Fletcher I say.

In September of 2005 Gary Fletcher said goodbye to his father by spreading his ashes in the sky during a skydive with his children and his friends. –  This is what happened
Gary Fletcher’s Ash Dive

Gary Fletcher’s Ash Dive from Superfletch on Vimeo.

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Experiences from Australia 5: next to the Shiraz in the cellar


This is the last article in the series and was not with the others but was on the same theme, from the same paper and seemed to chime nicely.

“Lowen Partridge, daughter of the late Tom Partridge, a founding member of Adelaide’s Beefsteak and Burgundy club, and her family thought it only fitting that his ashes rest in his daughter Gretta’s cellar at Hawthorn.

“His will had always stated that he would be cremated but it didn’t state what would happen to his ashes so this was entirely our decision,” Lowen, of Stonyfell, said. 

“He loved wine so much and had an extremely good palate, we thought it was the absolute perfect spot for him until we decided what to do with him long term.”

The family sees him often and sometimes goes down to the cellar to have a drink with him.

“It’s kind of nice to know that his remains are there,” Ms Partridge said.

It’s interesting that Ms Partridge does not see Dad next to the wine as a permanent fixture. Lots of people don’t want a permanent resting place straight away.

The other interesting part of the article was that it stated that 15-20 years ago about 70% of people who were cremated had their ashes stored at the cemetery compared with 47% now, a trend very similar to that in the UK.

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