Scattering ashes on water paradoxically seems to occupy two opposite roles at the same time: a place of special meaning and a somewhere anonymous. This occurred to me after I read two stories one after another of the different roles that water was fulfilling. The first was a report on Shoko Asahara the leader of Aum Shinrikyo sect who, in the mid-nineties, where responsible for the sarin nerve agent attack in Japan. He was recently executed for his crimes and his youngest daughter has agreed to scatter the ashes in the Pacific Ocean to prevent a ‘holy land’ being created. Apparently this is the only daughter who has left the cult and other family members and cult members want the ashes back. The ashes are being kept temporarily at the detention centre where he was executed due to fears that his daughter could be assaulted by his followers if she came to collect them. This use of the ocean to prevent pilgrimages has been used before, most notably when Osama Bin Laden remains were buried at sea to prevent this.
The second article was the scattering of ashes of ex-Seal Saman Gunan, who died in the rescue of the youth football team that was trapped in the cave in Chiang Rai province, Thailand.
The boys, their coach, his wife and her relatives were all taken in a boat to the middle of the Mekong River, where his ashes were scattered. Mr Gunans wife said she chose the Mekong River at that location for scattering the ashes because her late husband loved the river and she herself is a native of Nakhon Phanom. And the place has special meaning as it was the town is where they had met.
It is interesting that the water was chosen for the opposite reasons as somewhere meaningful and memorable also somewhere that was anonymous and generic.
The thing about water it does fulfil both those roles and I suspect other too.