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cremation ashes reunited

A Heart-warming story about a family being reunited (with ashes)


The story starts off rather tragically, it concerns a lady who is murdered. An English lady Lena Booth White Hat born in 1940 went off to the US to live here life and fell in love and married a native American Indian, the couple settled in Denver Colorado. The marriage sounds like it didn’t work out so well her husband Theodore White Hat absconded. And so Lena went in search of him and whilst travelling to find him was murdered in a place called Rapid City.

She was subsequently cremated and since 1977 the ashes were left gathering dust at the Behrens-Wilson funeral home in Rapid City

That was until recently when Lena niece went in search of them and got some help form a local historian in the US, who tracked the ashes down to the funeral home

Wade Wilson from the Behrens-Wilson funeral home said, “I thought to myself well…we do have a few of unclaimed remains that we shelter here for families that don’t claim the remain. I thought maybe this is just one of them…I went down and looked in the area that we have the shelter, and she was there. Then one of the first things we did was contact Ellen that we had the remains.”

However, the cost of getting the ashes back to the family was prohibitive and it looked it wasn’t to be a happy ending, then with some kindness and a bit of luck the ashes are being taken to the UK by a local family travelling there.

“We were just lucky enough to know that there is a couple here in town that they have a daughter that lives over there, and called and see if they would be willing to take the remains over there with them. They graciously said we will take them over and this will happen in November”, said Wilson.

What a lovely end to a tragic story.

Original story–444335643.html

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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

On my way to the Blue Ridge Mountains

The crematorium run by Cremation Services Inc. of Winston-Salem has had its license suspended by North Carolina Board of Funeral Services. Why? Well one of its employees had 93 unclaimed sets of ashes stored in his home in North Carolina. A neighbour noticed bone fragment and ashes near to the man’s dustbin and reported it to the authorities who investigated and found the large collection at the man’s house.

Susanne Blair of Cremation Services says the employee had permission to take the remains of the unclaimed bodies, since his home in the town of King was on the way to the Blue Ridge Mountains, where he planned to scatter the ashes.

Stokes County prosecutors say no law was broken. Regulators scheduled a hearing for May 10.

Umm, interesting…there are several issues going on here. Whilst there is no law broken is the company morally right? Well in some respects they are perhaps doing the decent thing in that they were intending to lay the ashes to rest in somewhere peaceful, but I think the way they went about it was a little naïve, perhaps their familiarity with the subject has dimmed their sense to what the wider public would expect.

It may have been perhaps more sensible to, inform the regulators, do it in small amounts and go directly there missing out the garage part. The other interesting part which casts doubt on the act is that the neighbour noticed bone and ash fragments which suggests one of two things: either there was a lot of bone so it was noticeable and its proximity to the waste bin suggests that the blue ridge mountains was only the theoretical destination or that there was only a small amount and a very nosey neighbour…

I guess if funeral directors are intending to do something similar it may be wise to publicise the fact first and opting for a bit more ceremony – if you going to do the right thing then actually do it.

And look no comments of witches of Salem angle or Laurel and Hardy….


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water urns

The perils of not using the right urn: Galveston, Texas

All too often I see in the reports of people trying to return urns to families. People will commit the ashes of a loved one to the deep without the full grasp of science – wood, air weight densities and the like. In fact, the situation got so bad in California they even have a law that specifies that people must use water urns – i.e. urns that are dissolved to degrade in water.

Here we have a case in Galveston Texas where a man has had three urns wash us on his property [ sorry I am going to have to have an interlude, I was aware on the song by the wonderful Glen Campbell turns out when I listened to the lyrics it talks about the sea – how knew?! Well apart from a million or so Glen Campbell fans. I my head I picture the Lone Star state as all JR, John Wayne and big cactuses – I hate my own ignorance, anyway back to the story].

Joe Morgan a resident of Tiki Island, Galveston Texas, had three wooden urns wash up on his property

”I’ve seen a lot of stuff float up here in the 40 plus years I’ve lived here, but not this,” said Mr Morgan. He told Fox ”This says ‘Rest in peace Iveria Caldwell’ and then ‘Rest in peace Helena Victoria Hernandez’ and this one says ‘Rest in peace Felicia Davis’.  I really hope I can find their family,”.

For those budding oceanographer, out there an interesting fact is that the boxes washed up, one at a time, within a 24-hour period.

He went onto say” It looks like three people died at the same time and they had some sort of ceremony and I guess they didn’t realize that wood floats.”

” It just seems sacred, sort of.  I said a little prayer over them when they floated up because there’s souls attached to that, I suppose.”

“I called the police after I found them.” He told the reporter that: offices arrived, opened the boxes finding ashes topped with roses. He’s told to simply throw the boxes away but he can’t do it. So, he called us to help so these women will get the burial loved ones thought they already gave them.

” I was hoping some of their family members might come take claim to them”.

How very caring of him and mean of the authorities, although my mental mental image of Texas lawman with mirrored aviator shades, does not lend itself to the warm and cuddly. If you ask me… I would make a small hole in the urn to allow water to get in, take them to a nice spot, say a few words and lay them to rest in the ocean. But that might be just me.

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Carrie Fisher interred in prozac pill urn

Carrie Fisher immortalised in film as Princess Leia in the original Star Wars films passed away in December. She was laid to rest alongside her mother: Debbie Reynolds – also a movie star who tragically died a day after her daughter.

Carrie Fisher had suffered with mental health issues for many years, so it was interesting that her nearest and dearest chose to inter her in a giant Prozac pill shaped urn. Tasteless? No, I don’t think so. Not just because has nothing to do with anyone else, but because in a way it helps to highlight the issue that so many people suffer from, but also there is a wry smile from the symbolism.

“I felt it was where she would want to be,” her brother Todd Fisher said. Following the joint funeral service at in the Hollywood Hills, Los Angeles, California

It appears not to have been specifically made, instead the oversized pill was apparently one of her favourite possessions and her brother and daughter to thought it seemed appropriate “She loved it, and it was in her house, and Billie [Carrie Fisher’s daughter] and I felt it was where she would want to be,” he said.

Personally, I am all for personal expression, symbolism and a little humour, although one appreciates this this would not be everyone’s approach.

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locket pendant lost

Lost and found – ashes locket -warming story for Christmas

We all hate losing stuff, but just imagine losing a locket with a loved one’s ashes inside – how distressing would that be. However, on this occasion there was a happy ending.

Last month Bud Crevasse, an octogenarian from Signal Mountain Tennessee, spotted a shiny pendant on the floor of a local car park, he picked it up and on examination realised what it was: a locket containing ashes. And being a very community spirited sort of chap he sought to find its owner. He didn’t have much to go on. The locket was inscribed with one a word name ‘Jack’.

Mr Crevasse tried to think of ways to find the charm’s owner. He called local police departments, but to no avail. Then, he talked to some of his friends at Alexian Village who said he should alert the media, so he called the Times Free Press.

He told the paper: “I saw something shining, and so I picked it up and put it in my pocket,” , “I realized this might be precious to someone,” , “I’ve heard people talk about taking the ashes of a loved one and wearing them on a necklace.”,

He gave the pendant to the reporter and the reporter took it to a local jeweller who observed  that “I would say it’s from a necklace, and the chain broke,”

So, the paper put out an appeal if anyone had lost the locket. Soon after a lady came forward and was able to identify the locket was hers and she was reunited with the ashes of her husband.

I do like a nice story for Christmas.

I think this one has a moral too. If you do have some ashes in a keepsake piece of jewellery please make sure you have some at home too in case of such an eventuality.

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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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memorial scatter garden

Washington residents want a scatter garden

Cremation is rising in popularity in the United States, now, just under half the population opt for cremation when the time comes, but the trend towards this has been quite steep and as such has created many varying dilemmas and opinions.

One outcome is a group in Washington that are pushing the council for a scatter garden within Takoma Park, in Washington, the point being they want to rest in the environment in which they lived.

The Washington Post recently ran an article which it focuses on a lady – Jennifer Beman, who is hoping the council will consider the suggestion for a scatter garden favourably and set a side and area ( the group are thinking 1,000 or so square feet) in one of the city’s existing gardens, a simple wall for names on plaques, maybe a path, maybe a bench.

Those residents using the facility would pay a small fee to have their name registered.

This would give people a place to return to and memorialise a loved one should they see fit.

She makes a fair point that the sea or a river may not provide for the needs of all relatives and the example that: “You can go with your kids and say, ‘I think it was somewhere around here, but maybe it was on the other side of the island.’ I like the idea of a real place.”

The other point made by Barbara Kemmis, head of the Cremation Association of North America. Is that people want it recording – they want a more permanent memorial. “Some people refer to all this as a lost generation from a memorial point of view,” Kemmis said. “A scatter garden, with their names engraved on a wall, offers the best of both worlds, the free-spirit nature of scattering plus a permanent memorial.”

Fair enough, although arguably an urban park and set areas is hardly a reflection of the free spirit of nature.

Ms Beman thinks the city will provide little funding in addition to routine maintenance and the land. So, they have set up a website –, her group has produced a fundraising video to attract the $10,000 to $50,000 that will be needed.

The article also had a snippet from the council that seemed rather lukewarm, one councillor is reported as saying he worries that the perpetual obligation could burden the city. “I can totally understand why people want to do this,” Kovar said. “But just because something is a nice idea doesn’t mean it’s a municipal function.”

I understand what the resident are trying to do and I applaud it, in the UK there is only the garden of remembrance at the crematoria and this not a place one would often wish to revisit. However, they are set up to deal with ashes, they record the scattering and the keep their garden’s very well-tended.

I see two issues the group could do with getting to grips with, which are often reported as pinch points. The first is colocation of ashes, if you restrict the space, people will need to scatter on the same spot this has led to tensions in the past. The second is leaving items of memorialisation, I think group may have envisaged a subtle walled rose garden or similar with discreet plaques around the side, however the trend is to place small markers and items sort of ‘grave goods’ and when these are removed it can result in an awful to of angst, this then drag in the council, etc. etc. Hopefully you get the way this goes.

I wish them luck in their endeavours, but I would urge them to consider unintended consequences….

Oh, one last thing the Post says that cemeteries are getting into providing clients with an opportunity to access an ossuaries to place ashes. I confess I had never heard of them! I put the word into Google images and got some surprising pictures. I wonder if they meant more like Columbarium??

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new york opera ashes

Emergency triggered due to Ash scattering at the New York Opera House.

A Dallas man caused a fright at the New York Metropolitan Opera House when he scattered the ashes of his friend in the orchestra pit during the intermission.

The ashes were mistaken for a dangerous substance and the performance had to be abandoned during the second intermission at the matinée performance of “Guillaume Tell’’, people were evacuated and counterterrorism police brought in.

Mr Kaiser, who attempted to exist ‘stage left’ unseen was tracked down, he had intended to honour his friend with this little act.

His act of kindness went badly wrong went wrong. Causing not only an emergency services needing to be called, but people distressed at being evacuated and the evenings performance being cancelled as well.

Now you might say it was an overreaction, and you may be right. However, in truth Mr Kaiser’s act wasn’t funny or quirky or honourable. It was ill-conceived. I don’t wish to sound all grumpy and righteous. But by not thinking this through he will have cost thousands of pounds (well dollars) worth of problems. Let’s say the cost of an average ticket was $50 and there was 800 people there and they all travelled in costing $10 each that is almost $50,000 alone without the cost of people’s time the emergency services even the poor musicians couldn’t get their instruments back “My viola case (black cover) is still in the pit,’’ Met violist Vincent Lionti lamented on the orchestra’s Facebook page. Another musician joined in: “As are all our instruments.’’

When authorities caught up to him, Kaiser said that he came to the opera to “sprinkle the ashes of his friend and mentor’’ who “loved the opera,”. Whilst the police were cross it looks like there is nothing he can be charged with as John Miller, NYPD put it “At this point, I don’t think we would refer to him as a [crime] ‘suspect,’”

So, it was an act of kindness that went wrong should it be left at that?  Well that’s all it can be, Mr Kaiser was very contrite. He said his “sweet gesture to a dying friend” went “completely and utterly wrong”. And went on to say “As a devoted opera enthusiast the reality of the situation weighs heavily on me,” – so those copycats out there please think a little, before you sprinkle (I almost got that to rhyme!)

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celebrity ashes capote

Ashes are priceless. Well Truman Capotes aren’t !

The world of ashes always throws curve balls. People often say that the cremated remains of a person are priceless and in a sense this is true: they can’t be replaced; they can often be the most sentimental possession in the world or they may be unwanted. I think this the reason why so many couriers won’t touch them as they can’t insure them.

So the fact that the ashes of a famous celebrity have come up for auction is bizarre and fascinating. Truman Capote: author, socialite and general all-round celebrity is to have his ashes auctioned in Los Angles, the starting price for this macabre relic was $2,000, in fact the fetched $43,000!

The ashes are contained within a carved Japanese box and have been kept in the room where he passed away in the house of his friend Joanne Carson the widow of the famous US TV host. When Ms Carson passed away the executors of the estate pondered on what to do with Mr Capotes’ ashes, and after considering the ethical dimension they decide to sell them.

Bad taste? Well many think not, certainly not the auction house who think it is a good idea  (surprise surprise) “With some celebrities this wouldn’t be tasteful, but I know 100% he would love it,” Darren Julien, president of Julien’s Auctions, told the Guardian. “He loved to create press opportunities and to read his name in the paper. I think he would love it that he’s still grabbing headlines today.”

He went on to say: “In this case it’s absolutely fine because it really embodies what Truman Capote was and what he loved to do,”. “Truman told Joanne that he didn’t want his ashes to sit on a shelf. So this is a different way of honouring his request. It is just furthering the adventures of Truman Capote.”

The ashes have had an interesting ‘life’ of their own, with them reported as being stolen (and returned) twice! The ashes were even invited to the Broadway version of Breakfast at Tiffany’s in 2013 opening gala but Carson, fearing another incident, kept them at home.

So this is interesting for two reasons: the morality and the legality. The morality, is right to flog someone’s moral remains under the hammer: is this not demeaning and in very poor taste? Well it depends. There are plenty of people who choose an eyebrow raising event for a loved one’s ashes. After reading Julian Barn’s Nothing to be Scared of where he discusses the clichéd expression: ‘what they would have wanted’ and his brother contends this to be a load of old tosh, future subjective, as one cannot say because it impossible to know! Personally I don’t think this a problem, and whilst one cannot know what Truman Capote ‘would have wanted’ it does seem entirely in keeping with his persona. As for the wider point that ashes are sacrosanct, well that depends which world view you hold and no one has a monopoly on what is correct.

As to the legality: I often report on this blog about rowing relatives going to court to settle who should have the ashes of a loved one and that the courts struggle on this because no one can own ashes in the same way that can’t own a body. So what will the contract say? What are these people buying, if those selling do not own the ashes? It would interesting to see if it was ever challenged….

I wonder if there might be a future market in the ashes of famous people? It would not be that surprising, if you think about it, the purchaser may decide to turn Mr Capote into a huge number keepsakes and sell them – you could end with a whole market in celebrity keepsakes, taking us back to the relic cult of the Middle Ages. And it wouldn’t be the first sort of occurrence like this: Napoleon’s penis and a kidney stone belonging to the actor William Shatner, which raised $75,000 for charity in 2006. So, watch this space…

Original story – well everywhere this was based on:


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ashes in jewellery

The Facebook generation has no problem with the ashes of a former spouse

You may think that the urn or cremation jewellery of a former spouse may freak-out prospective new partners, and they would want the widow or widower to removal all traces of a former partner. Not so.

Respondents on Facebook survey conducted by OneWorld Memorials shows just the opposite in fact.

In their survey: Love in the Time of Cremation Urns

They posed the following question on Facebook:

“If you were in a relationship with someone and discovered they had the remains of their former spouse in their house or in jewellery they wore, would you:

a) Break off the relationship?
b) Ask them to get rid of the jewelry, keepsake or urn?
c) Not sure how you would react, but would be disturbed?
d) You wouldn’t be bothered by it ”

The result – almost everyone didn’t care (96%). I have attached a link to their splendid info graphic.

“This came as a shock.” said Ira Woods, the President of OneWorld Memorials. “I was convinced that someone in a relationship with a widow or widower would be very unhappy about their new love wearing a necklace filled with the deceased spouse’s cremation ashes or having an urn prominent in the house. But in fact people overwhelmingly expressed the opposite. Many found this behaviour to be a show of good character.”

Well done, for a good bit of insight. However, being the ever vigilant data nerd I will add a few caveats before all you that find yourself in this boat start dangling the pendant at the first date, content in the knowledge that acceptance is almost guaranteed.

  • The article did not give number of respondents
  • Those going to the page would be more comfortable with this subject anyway
  • The Facebook demographic coupled with the subject would be unlikely to give a true cross-section of society

That said, nice survey and a positive result.

The original source:

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cremation reef hawaii

Where west meets east: memorial reefs in Hawaii

Memorial reefs are well established in the US the most famous is arguably the Neptune Society: a fantastical underwater sea-scape set off the coast of Florida – clear blue warm seas, absolutely perfect.

With those sort of climatic conditions where else in the States might be ideally suited, well Hawaii for one….?

Now cast your gaze to the other side of pacific where the Maoris are engaged in a protracted battle with the authorities on where ashes can be scattered, they considered the practise to be culturally offensive.

The Polynesian diaspora covers many thousands of miles over many centuries, and so it would appear that similar objections seem to be being raised in the island state of the US.

In a report in the Hawaii News Now there highlights just such a proposal (and backlash). The company Hawaii Memorial Reefs, is planning to construct a reef, where the ashes are incorporated into reef balls that are dropped 1/2 a mile offshore to create a habitat for wildlife. But the indigenous population aren’t that pleased.

“I’m already hearing from people who are appalled by this. In fact, kupuna are saying this is hewa,” cultural adviser for Livable Hawaii Kai Hui Ann Marie Kirk.

“For me personally, as a Hawaiian too, it just doesn’t sit well in my na’au,” Clyde Kaimuloa said.

Unsurprisingly the company disagrees: “We’re actually not trying to build an underwater cemetery, we’re trying to build an artificial reef and we’re using the cremains of your loved one and the dedications to actually help fund the building of the reef,” Richard Filanc said.

He went onto say that he does not consider it an “underwater cemetery,” rather an alternative to traditional burial while enhancing Hawaii’s ecological habitat.

“Because we’re an island community, we have limited space. And as the population grows, we need more land to develop for cemeteries and this is actually more environmentally conscious than actually developing more land for cemeteries,”

“We didn’t just fall off the back of the kalo truck, we understand that this is about money. This is a commercial venture and we already have scientists who are saying that that’s not good for the bay, that Maunalua doesn’t need that,” Kirk said.

The company hope to start creating the reef next year…..

See video below
Hawaii News Now – KGMB and KHNL

Here is a link to the Neptune society –

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boston scattering ashes

Sports fan deifies ban to scatter on third base

Sports fans can have an extremely strong bond with their club and judging by the amount of requests and queries we get, they can often wish to have their ashes scattered at the hallow turf.

This story from the US is interesting as not only does it concern someone breaking the rules, but their keenness to record and publicise the fact too.

Mr Dave Johnson who passed away last December was dyed in the wool Boston Red Sox fan, his family thought it would be fitting to have his ashes scattered at the home ground – Fenway Park. So they approached the club and the club said no – because of the number of requests “We are touched that people have such a powerful connection with Fenway Park and request this be their final resting place, however the sheer volume made it difficult to continue this practice,” the Red Sox spokesman told WBZ-TV.

However, his daughter Megan was not be deterred and she went and did it any. Not the whole amount, just a token scattering through the netting near third base.

Megan then posted a video on her Twitter page showing the moment her family spread her father’s ashes. “Celebrating my day in the most appropriate way. By scattering his ashes at Fenway Park,” she tweeted.

And one family member replied “You are immortalized at Fenway Park for the rest of your life,”

Megan says her late father, who was a mental health counsellor, was a “rule breaker” and would have loved the Fenway sentiment.

So is this good? Out of order? Stylishly rebellious? Well depends whose view you take, as a one off family statement you may say fair play nicely done. The club are probably thinking – oh my goodness if this starts a trend

Personally I don’t think it wasn’t too bad, it was a token scattering and hopefully won’t give the club to big a headache.

I do find it interesting that rather than do the act in clandestine way and sneaking off, it was loud and proud. This was clearly an act of celebration and as such I find it heart warming.

Original story:

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mosh pit scattering

Metal fan has his ashes scattered in the Mosh Pit

You’re not allowed to call it heavy metal any more so I am told, just metal. But still to my mind it is pretty much the same. Loud in volume, lots of drums and thrash guitar, not so many ballads and plenty of counter culture paraphernalia.

Metal bands seem to specifically go out of their way to stick to fingers up, still there is nothing new in youth culture doing that I suppose. Here we have to fine examples of the genre, Behemoth and splendidly titled Dying Fetus (not aiming to offend anyone with that name then). Well both granted a late fan’s dying wish to have his ashes scattered and one of their gigs.

Below is a video clip of Behemoth’s lead singer Adam Nergal Darski paying tribute to the former fan whose name was Nick (no surname given) at their recent performance in Chicago.

Before the bands strikes out the chords for the classic ‘Antichristian Phenomenon’, Mr Darski holds up a tube/vile to the crowd and say “I have never done this before. Our friend and massive Behemoth fan; his name was Nick. All I’ve got to say is, wherever you are, rest in peace, my friend.”
I think it would have been a bit more rock ‘n’ roll to cast it out into the mosh pit, instead of just pouring it in front of himself – but that’s just me.


Nick (or part thereof) was also scattered at a Dying Fetus event in early May. The band posted on Facebook prior to the gig: “A Dying Fetus fan named Nick from Illinois recently passed away, and his wishes were to have his ashes scattered on stage at a Dying Fetus show, what do you think, should we do it?” (this is the main photo)
Then following the gig they posted: “We just scattered Nicks’ ashes in the pit for his favourite song, ‘Homicidal retribution’, may he rest in the pit”.
May he rest in the pit – ho ho, oh I do like a clever play on words. Anyway well done Nick, a first I think – I have never come across this type of scattering ceremony – so hats off to you. May you rock forever dude [I am currently doing a ‘power fist sign’ but you can’t see that].

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Princes ashes

Prince’s Ashes

Prince’s Ashes

The musical icon Prince passed away late last month, he was found collapsed in a lift at his home. Those in the know consider there is no reason why he should have taken his own life and the most likely explanation is an accidental overdose of painkillers he was using for a back problem.

Only close friends and family attended his funeral after which his after his body was cremated. There was a private ceremony held at his Paisley Park home, in Minnesota. The family followed his wishes for there to be “no more drama,”

His publicist released a statement confirming he had been cremated, saying: “A few hours ago, Prince was celebrated by a small group of his most beloved family, friends and his musicians, in a private, beautiful ceremony to say a loving goodbye.

“Prince’s remains have been cremated and their final storage will remain private. We ask for your blessings and prayers of comfort for his family and close friends at this time.”

“An announcement will be made at a future date for a musical celebration.”

Very sad indeed, it is interesting that like David Bowie that these ultimate showman and entertainers would want such a quiet farewell. I wonder why? So people focus on their musical legacy? Out of respect to the family? So the location should not provide a pilgrimage site? I doubt we shall ever know.

However in the expansive report (that had in fact little content) one little comment deserves note; the spokesperson’s use of the word ‘Storage’ of his ashes, as opposed to being buried, interred or scattered for example. Might we expect a Prince style mausoleum or columbarium with big marble flourishes and lots of purple. Why not ah?! I imagine his home will be the new Graceland anyway – it could be the new benchmark … Although perhaps depressingly all the money for this great architectural project will end up in the hands of the lawyers, the silly chap didn’t leave a will.

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Scattering Ashes in the USA National Parks

I can see why many Americans would opt to have their ashes scattered in one of the National Parks: the size and grandeur are breathing, the sense of scale, space and wilderness are awe-inspiring

The good news is you can – the Park Service routinely grants permission for scattering of ashes. The same is true of the Bureau of Land Management. Every location has its own rules.

Before I go on I have to say this is not my own research it comes from an article written by David Skidmore of the Chicago Tribune, a link to which can be found at the bottom. So I will be basing this on that, so thanks Mark.

What you need to do: Send a request into the office responsible for managing the site. For the national parks applications can be submitted online. Each have their different rules

Where do I find the contact details:

National Parks:

Bureau of land management:

What does it cost: it is free

How long do it to process: up to two weeks

The following is general advice Kyle Patterson from Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park the park’s public affairs officer.

There are no designated sites for the scattering of ashes (sometimes called cremains in the US)  within the park, but the location must be away from developed areas.

People should not to scatter remains in parking lots or at trailheads, in camping or picnic areas, and we want them to be at least 200 feet from a water source, such as a lake or stream

Discretion should be exercised when spreading the ashes so they’re not disturbing people who might be in the area.

While the spreading of ashes is allowed, marking the site with a memorial is not,

We don’t allow any plaques or displays or cairns or other things that someone might want to place next to the place where they scattered the ashes.

Some other points that Mr Skidmore has unearthed are of interest:

Some parks have specific sites for scattering, such as Bryce Canyon National Park, which limits scattering to Pirates Point.

A number have tighter controls over what happens at the scattering (no music at Bryce Canyon; no release of birds, butterflies or other objects at Great Smoky Mountains National Park).

Some parks allow scattering by air with minimum altitudes (2,000 feet at Sequoia and Kings Canyon, 1,000 feet at Yellowstone). In every instance you must have your permit with you when you do the scattering.

Beyond the regular fees for entering a park, there are usually no additional fees for scattering ashes of loved ones (larger gatherings might require a special-use permit).

Good news I feel, particularly the fact that the parks are prepared to take on an admin burden at no cost to the public. The only point that did raise an eyebrow was the fact the Ms Pattterson felt the need to highlight the fact that people should not scatter in car parks. I had this mental image which is slightly clichéd of a couple sitting in their car overlooking some wondrous natural phenomena saying: ‘Ol’ Hank he loved the great outdoors, a real cowboy: the wide spaces and the call of the wild, this is just the place he would want to be laid to rest. Now, Daisy-May would you pass me that the urn and wind the window down…’

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ashes on delta airlines

Carrying ashes on a Delta Air Lines flight

Carrying ashes on a Delta Air Lines flight.

Travelling with ashes can be tricky, it is best to get thing right from the start, so that your journey is as stress free as possible.  So if you intending to take cremation ashes on a Delta Air Lines flight, this is what they say:

Cremated remains can be accepted as either carry-on or checked baggage on the Delta Airlines flights. However, passengers must have a death or cremation certificate.

Please find below the requirements to carry the cremation remains in the cabin and/or in the hold;

  • Cremated remains may be carried on board the aircraft or shipped as cargo.
  • The urn counts towards the carry on allowance.
  • Remains must pass through the x-ray machine.
  • If the container is metal and prevents the screener from clearly being able to see what is inside, the container will not be allowed through the security checkpoint.
  • TSA(Transportation Security Administration) suggests the passenger purchase a temporary or permanent crematory container of lighter material such as wood or plastic which can easily be x-rayed.
  • TSA (Transportation Security Administration)is not allowed to open the container under any circumstances.
  • Cremated remains must be shipped in a crematory urn or funeral urn that is sufficiently protected against breakage.
  • A passenger may transport cremated remains as checked baggage provided the remains successfully pass through security screening..

Thank you Delta Air Lines for letting us know.

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coffin cremated

Do they burn the coffin when you get cremated

Do they burn the coffin when you get cremated?

The question, do coffins get cremated with the body is a frequently asked. To those in the funeral industry this often met with a surprised or bemused look, the answer is: yes, of course.

However the fact the question is asked on such a frequent basis mean that this is not universally known or understood. But why should it be? Most people prefer not to dwell on such issues, why would they?

Apparently there are certain companies in North America that will rent out one of those grand caskets, like the ones you see in the Soprano’s (these are not very common in the UK) and then after the funeral the body is transferred to a more simple coffin for the cremation.

In the UK once the coffin is sealed, that is it. The coffin, the body and anything the person is wearing (including jewellery) will be cremated.

The heat and duration of the process means that the only thing that are left are those that do not combust (burn) – bones and the metal parts e.g. metal nails from the coffin and false hips etc.

The metal parts are removed and in many British crematoria these are now recovered with the proceeds going to good causes. The remainder of the cremated remains, which is the bone matter, is reduced to a granular powder known as ashes. This is what you will receive back from the crematoria or funeral director.

Our advice. Remove jewellery from the deceased, even items such as wedding rings. Whilst you may think that they never took of in life and it should stay with them through the process, it is perhaps better that it is passed on, placed in a memory box or incorporated into another piece of jewellery. Important jewellery is link to a person life and should stay that way.

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travelling with ashes

Advice on travelling with cremated remains from the LA Times

The question of how to travel with cremated remains was posed to the LA Times travel correspondent.

She was asked: Recently, a long-time travel friend died. She had travelled with us several times on African safaris and was in love with Africa, the animals and the safari experience. One of her wishes was that we take her ashes on our next trip to South Africa and sprinkle them on a game-filled savannah in her memory. Are there any rules that would pertain or restrict taking someone’s ashes in a carry-on or checked luggage?

The answer printed was good, a link to the full response is at the end, I have attempted to capture the salient points. Which was basically it depends whether you want to abide by the rules or not.

If you do

  • Check with the airline and if you are using more than one check with them too.
  • They are likely to want a death certificate or certificate of cremation. (You will almost always be better off if it’s a certified copy). If it is a choice rather than both go for the certificate of cremation.
  • Make sure the urn can be x-rayed (non-metal) otherwise it will not be allowed through the security checkpoint. The Transportation Security Administration will not open any container with ashes, even if you say it’s OK and even if you have documentation explaining what’s in there. That means you must choose the container carefully.
  • You may able to check the ashes in, but if your bag is delayed or goes missing that will present a problem, so it is probably best in hand luggage
  • Make an extra check for all your possession when leaving the plane
  • Check with the consulate/embassy before traveling to learn what the specific rules in the chosen country are. When you contact the consulate, you’ll probably need a certified copy of the death certificate, a disposition permit and some sort of identification for the decedent, which could be a passport, but could be a driver’s license.
  • Some countries will only accept information from a licensed funeral director, and … cremated remains may only be sent to licensed funeral directors or cemeteries.” And if that’s the case, you’ll need help from the funeral director because “the process of arranging travel with cremated remains can be daunting.”

However if you choose the “forgiveness-not-permission” route, you still should note that you are supposed to ask for an OK for the land owner before scattering. As to what happens if you get caught doing this when you shouldn’t well that’s depends where it is – some countries are more benign than others…

Original story:





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One Virginians preference for cremation

In the early days of the blog I did quite a few ‘personal perspectives’ and I am not sure why I haven’t posted any for a while. This lady’s ponderings interested me, not only is it thoughtful, but it has a clear insight into the american way of thinking and highlights for me the debate in the US on the rise in cremation. In spite of everything talked about it is not cost based, although money is mentioned, instead centres around obligation and memorialisation.

I have directly cut and pasted the relevant section with a link to the full article at the bottom.

“That brings up an entirely new issue: the family debate over cremation. Which is better: having one’s ashes scattered over some bucolic mountain or ocean scene, or having a casket in a cemetery plot?

Some members of our family say that it is selfish to be cremated and not allow the rest of the family to have a place of memory. Is it selfish to be cremated? Or is it self-less? Seems to me not having any cemetery plot to purchase and mess with makes things easier and less expensive for the survivors.

My mom and dad have told us kids just to put them each in a green garbage bag, leave them at a landfill and spare the expense. We kids figure that must present some sort of health hazard and will pool our funds for the crematory.

Plus with cremation, there’s no issue of survivor’s guilt. Why leave loved ones behind to feel obligated to go visit a plot of land and ensure that it’s free of weeds or has not fallen into disrepair?

On the other hand, I can appreciate the need for the survivors wanting to have a place to go. There is sentiment in having a place to go and reflect on departed loved ones. And for plots with a waterfront view, that is not so bad for the living either. Who is to say what is the right answer?

Finally, that leads to the other family ethical debate — the open versus closed casket. Personally, I do not want to be remembered looking like some wax museum make-up laden dummy. Cremate me and show a video of when I had a human spirit in me (perhaps on my mountain bike). Scatter my ashes in some open body of water somewhere and then go have a big outdoor barbeque and celebrate.

But other family members say that viewing an open casket gives closure, that it allows folks to properly say goodbye.

And so the debate goes on. I say from ashes to ashes, from dust to dust. My body is just a vessel for my human spirit — one that loves a Sunday cemetery spin.’

So thank you Mrs Quinn from Richmond Virginia.

Original article

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memorial jewlery find shop

Be minded of Aladdin’s Cave

You would be surprised how many stories there are about cremated remains ending up in charity shops, the normal circumstances are that a house clearance is organised by someone living away and no one checking or realising that a loved one’s ashes were in the wardrobe, these issues a are usually swiftly sorted. However this is a slightly different twist.

A ladies bought a silver locket from a thrift store (known as Charity shops in the UK) located in Vermont in the US. When she got the locket home and opened it she was mildly surprised to find it the jewellery contained cremated remains.

She returned the locket to the shop. Merilyn Bourne from the organisation that runs the shop said “This sort of event has never occurred before,” and they were stumped as to know how to find the donor as the donation could have been months ago.

Listen Community Services (the organisation that runs the shop) posted the following on its Facebook page: “We are trying to locate the original owner of this locket that was accidentally donated to LISTEN. This locket contains the ashes of a loved one, and we would really like to return it to its rightful owner. If you have any information, call our central office at (603)448-4553 and ask to speak with Merilyn. Help spread the word by sharing this post!”

Bourne hopes that the power of Facebook will help them locate the lockets elusive owner.

Bourne says that so far, three or four people have contacted them claiming the locket is theirs, but because anyone could describe the locket from the news and Facebook, she has not returned the locket to anyone yet, but she is hopeful that she will locate the rightful owner.

I am not sure which is most sad, someone giving away jewellery containing the ashes of a loved one or a random stranger pretending it is theirs! Funny old world.
Original story

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ashes buried with which family

Choose to inter ashes at a family grave, but whose family?

Cremation is the common choice in the UK and becoming so in Canada and the US, therefore you can fit more ash caskets onto a family plot. But whose family?

I came across an interesting think piece by Ken Gallinger in the Toronto Star about where you choose to inter your ashes.

Ken’s mum is buried in her father’s plot in Toronto, his father is in south-western Ontario, along with his parents. Additionally his wife’s family has a plot in Manitoba where both parents rest. All the plots have space enough for him and his wife.

But Ken makes the point that in the in the normal run of things the bond of next of kin or principle relationship alters when one get a life partner and that is how it should be – those that continually look to their parents for love and guidance before turning to their spouse are well umm …doomed.

So what do you do when it comes to being interred, clearly his mother and father choose to be separated and return back to their parents. But most couples would not want this, most would wish some continuance of their bond. With families becoming ever more dispersed what you do, his suggestion is to have his ashes and his wife’s ashes mixed, divided into three and one urn interred in each of the plots.

But what about his children or his grandchildren they could be looking at something like 12 locations – which seems crazy. Also this is not an option for Catholics (as they can’t split the ashes) and how many headstones would you have? Here lies 1/9 of Stuart Wilson and 1/7 of Catherine Wilson? What happens if your partner can’t stand the ‘in-laws’?

I am not saying he shouldn’t do what he suggests, it is all about choice. What I am saying is this approach is probably not sustainable in the long run.

A couple of other options then – don’t opt for the family plot – have your own where you made your life, or make it a family tradition to scatter a token amount in a certain place – a specific lake or river? Tricky one this…

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cremation trends in the us

The changing trends towards cremation in the USA

Here is an interesting article from USA Today which has looked at changing trends in death rituals in the US and greater adoption of cremation. The article points to six noticeable changes in culture:

  1. More people are personalising cremation

The articles points to the fact that there is greater choice out there for people to memorialise, urns for water burials, ashes being put into coral reefs, urns where you can plant a seed that can grow into a tree.

  1. People are becoming more mobile, and costs are higher to ship and bury bodies

The more mobile to population the less people associate with a specific place or a need to return to that place. Shipping a body is very expensive shipping an urn isn’t. Costs in general are greater for a burial. The article stated:

–In 1960, the national median cost of a funeral minus the vault, which is a container usually made of concrete that is used to encase the casket, was $708.

–The national median cost of a funeral in 2012 was $7,045. If a vault is included, something that is typically required by a cemetery, the median cost was $8,343.

–The 2013 median cost of cremation with no memorial services, and including a crematory fee and a basic urn, was $2,260.

–The median price for a memorial service with cremation and no viewing of the body before cremation was $3,250.

–The median price of an adult funeral with cremation casket, which is a combustible casket, viewing and cremation was $5,410. Some cremation caskets can be rented for the viewing, which is a less expensive option.

Note: these costs don’t include the plot, the headstone or flowers! And the first one can be extortionate.

  1. Cremation is rising in popularity in Arizona and nationally

The U.S. cremation rate in 2013 was 45% and set to rise to 50.6 by 2018, according to the Cremation Association of North America. Some states are more in favour than other for example the Arizona cremation rate is slightly more than 64 percent.

  1. Religious norms have changed to allow cremation

The article point to the fact that the Catholic Church relaxed its view on cremation, but that was back in the 1960s, I guess these things take a long while to filter through…Or whilst it would appear that the US is still a church going society maybe strict doctrine does not have the hold it once did?

  1. Hearses and big limos are on their way out

The article reported that the use of hearses and limos were on the decline with the funeral director reported as saying that they had sold there fleet and now rented them. Well I can see you can perhaps do without the limos, but the hearse?

  1. Kitchens and other gathering places at mortuaries are in

This I also found interesting, people where still very much into the family gathering and the ‘wake’ plays a greater role, with mortuaries spending on kitchen equipment to allow outside carters to offer more than a cold cup of tea and a curly sandwich.

Anyway if you a bit more depth from a range funeral professionals, here is the article:

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ashes contaminted

Forensic science and the case of the dubious ashes

ashes contaminted

I think most of may raise questions if we received a love remains back and we got a solid grey lump back like the one in the picture.

This is what happened to family of a man in the US, what is more it was a kilogram heavier than was expected. Dubious indeed!

The funeral directors, who to be honest don’t sound the brightest, returned the urn to family three weeks after they said they had ‘misplaced’.

Before even opening it, the family sent the urn to forensic osteology at the Human Identification Lab at California State University in Chico, for testing.

After the dump grey lump (not a normal state for ashes to be in) was dried out the analysis begun, they came across screws, staples and stones and some bone but less than one would expect, well about a third of what was expected.

The lab went one step further, and asked a Swedish institute to examine the cremated remains with X-ray diffraction (XRD) and scanning electron microscopy. They conclude that fibreglass reinforced concrete had been added to the mix! Was this some sort of Blue Peter creation that had gone seriously wrong! There was no traces of sticky backed plastic so perhaps we can rule that one out….

The evidence was enough for the funeral home to settle out of court, so we shall never know….boooooo

Oh well, the researchers seemed happy and said their process could be used in similar cases. They wrote:  “Using a multidisciplinary approach to cremains analysis can provide useful information for resolving cases of contaminated remains and cases in which the remains do not represent the decedent,”

Original article:

“Using a multidisciplinary approach to cremains analysis can provide useful information for resolving cases of contaminated remains and cases in which the remains do not represent the decedent,” the researchers write.


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buddhist cremation relics

Iconic Buddhist monk’s cremation relics go on display


The Rosemead Buddhist temple in Los Angles is opening its door to the public, displaying a huge collection of relics.

This year the collection has even more artefacts, perhaps the most notable of its new relics from the Venerable Thich Quang Duc. The Buddhist monk who in 1963  in south Vietnam set fire to himself in in protest of over government repression on of Buddhism. This iconic act of self-immolation was captured on camera and made headlines around the world. An act that later became recognised as the turning point in the Buddhist crisis and a significant moment in the collapse of the American supported Diem regime.” The temple describes them and relics; we can take this to mean cremated remains.

The temple’s collection is famous with over ten thousand artefacts many of them are Sharia crystals: which are crystallised remains that from when cremation conditions are right and are considered to be extremely precious. In fact they are considered to have supernatural properties, such as the ability to emanate aromas or reproduce spontaneously (although presumably the last ability only happens when your back is turned)

The temple is even said to have the two teeth and a finger bone of the Buddha himself (nice!) “[These] are sacred religious artefacts highly revered throughout the world,” according to temple spokeswoman Vickie Sprout.

The temple first exhibited to the public in 2013, the collection has grown  through donations from all over the world, including Burma, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Tibet, Vietnam and Cambodia.



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columbarium usa

More columbarium controversy

columbarium usa

What started as a spat between a church and local businesses on the construction of a columbarium has gone wider and now the State of Wisconsin have issued an opinion that concurred with the attorney general in Cedarburg – columbaria are the same as mausoleum.

Which has come as a bit of a surprise to the religious community who have been constructing these for decades without any fuss.

The popularity for columbaria has been growing over the years due to: the rise in cremation; the availability/scarcity of land needed for a traditional burial; and the wish of the deceased to be interred at or near their church.

The argument that these are different from Mausoleum is fairly simple: mausoleum can house bodies and cremation ashes, columbaria just store ashes.

However Michael Berndt, chief legal counsel for the Department of Safety and Professional Services, disagrees and issued an opinion (Feb-15) in which he asserted that they are a type of mausoleum and as such bound by state laws that cover mausoleums.

In most states ashes and bodies are treated differently, but this depends on the how the state defines the “final disposition” of human remains, according to Mike Kremski of the Cremation Society of Milwaukee.

In Wisconsin, “the law says that final disposition is going to be either a burial, entombment (above ground) or cremation. And once one of those things occurs, the state is satisfied … that final disposition has occurred,”

Religious communities appear to have a couple of options to pursue. The courts: Eric Rossbach, deputy general counsel at the Washington-based Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a non-profit, special interest law firm. Is of the opinion that depending on the circumstances, churches could challenge the restrictions under the First Amendment and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, a federal law that bars state and local governments from using their zoning codes to discriminate against religious institutions.

The second option is to work with the legislature and get the issue ironed out, which is the approach being taken by the Advent Church in Cedarburg who are set to meet with state lawmakers in the hope of carving out a religious exemption in the statutes.

As it would appear that the most interested parties are not opposed to some form of regulation or licensing of columbaria to ensure the respectful treatment of remains. For example some churches already state in their bylaws how the remains will be handled should the church close or move. However they consider limiting columbaria to cemeteries would be the wrong outcome.

So fingers crossed some pragmatic solution can be found, it does seem that a little flexibility might be the right answer.

Orginial story:–but-not-without-controversy-b99439856z1-291612941.html

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choices for cremation

US Agony Aunt’s readers give reasons for choosing cremation

choices for cremation

In the US cremation is on the rise, so a popular US agony aunt asked why. Whilst cost is often sighted and one case there was not enough space for a burial in the cemetery of choice.  There was two other reasons which I was not expecting.  One revolves around the versatility of cremated remains in memorialising, a keen diver thought that having his remains incorporated into a memorial reef  was a good idea “That way, I’ll be able to return to nature, give divers a place to enjoy and forever be back in the water that I have always loved.” Others thought being turned into a memorial diamond or placed into memorial jewellery was a nice way to be memoiralised.

However the most interesting can be described life fears projected onto death, so the examples given were claustrophobia: if you are cremated then that sense will not last for very long. Another was being placed in the coffin whilst still alive: so it would be better to be cremated as the ‘real’ end would come much more quickly if cremated. Lastly, one person thought that if you were cremated then there would be no chance of scientists or archaeologists digging you up at a later date to experiment or put you on display.

I can’t say if the projected concerns have come the fore due to it being via an agony aunt or because it is more ‘news worthy’ but still it does open a window on a range of rationale that perhaps gets overlooked.

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cremated remains data ashes store at home

One in five households hold someone’s cremated remains

cremated remains data ashes store at home

Well that is what a survey of residents of California and Washington State revealed. I came across this delightful infographic the other day and thought it was worth sharing.

A number of funeral homes got together and commissioned a small survey on people attitudes to keeping ashes in the home and is does make a few claims which I think are well worth sharing:

  • One in five people have cremation ashes stored in the house.
  • Of the ashes stored within people’s homes 50% are parents, 15% are their spouse and 5 % are a friend.
  • 54% who had cremated remains in the house mainly did so because of the lack of knowledge regarding other options
  • The majority of people who have ashes store have only the remains of one individual at home (76%), although a significant number (24%) have kept the remains of more than one person.
  • If they choose to inter the ashes at a cemetery the top reasons given were: having a place for family members to visit (48%), showing respect (47%), memorialising loved ones (43%) and helping future generations connect with their heritage (43%).

About the Survey: 405 respondents in California and Washington State were surveyed online July 2014; all individuals surveyed kept the ashes of loved ones at home. Mountain View Funeral Home and Cemetery, Chapel of the Chimes Hayward, Chapel of the Chimes Oakland, Sunset Lawn Chapel of the Chimes Sacramento and Skylawn Funeral Home sponsored the survey.

Now this is fascinating and I think it is good of the funeral homes to share the data, no one so naïve that they believe this is purely an altruistic exercise, of course not, so read with that in mind it helps to paint more into the picture.

You would think me remise if I didn’t ask the obvious questions, so here they are.

  • If all respondents had cremated remains already how do they know that one in five of all households contain them? If they used a calculation it is not evident.
  • If you total up whose ashes are kept (parent, spouse, friend) it leaves a gap of 20% … strangers? Likely that 20% did not state who, so they should have pointed that out.
  • The percentage spilt between parent and spouse is interesting (strangely low), one can’t know the research methodology but the fact that it is an online survey may be one reason, in that internet demographics influence the age range of respondents.

Of what can be considered fairly robust is: if someone is thinking about interring in a cemetery the data seems fairly reasonable about their rationale.

Another fact that we can glean is that nearly a quarter of those that have ashes in the house have more than one person.

Lastly is the statistic that more than half of people have them at home because they don’t know what the choices are, which chimes with our understanding too.

So well done them and thanks for the information. Here is the link to the full press release published on Reuters



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cremation indigents ohio

Should idigents be cremated or buried? Ohio debate

cremation indigents ohio

The small city Elyria, in Ohio near the shore of the mighty lake Erie is having a debate, should indigents of the town be buried or cremated. I suppose what first tickled my interest was the word indigent, I consider myself to have a reasonable vocabulary, but I and never come across this before, well at least not consciously (in case you are in my boat – it means poor and needy). The city council have been debating whether to bury or cremate as there is a cost saving to be had:

The city pays about $2,500 to bury an indigent person’s remains in one of the city’s three cemeteries. An official said burying cremated remains costs just over $1,000.

Which seems a sensible move, but the cemeteries say they would miss the revenue as cremation rates have risen from 15% in 1985 to 43% in 2012.

It would seem strange to me that the Authority would wish to subsides one part of its organisation in this way, but there you go.

However, either way the saving would be quite small, there were 10 people in the city last year that needed this service. Whilst it is very difficult to compare with my post at the start of the year on those in LA left to be disposed of at the authorities expense, it would appear even using crude maths the Los Angeles situation is around 10 times worse.

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los angles uncliamed ashes

Unclaimed dead in Los Angeles – a service for the interment of ashes

Every year the city of Los Angeles buries it’s unclaimed dead. In December 2014 those who deceased in 2011 were laid to rest. Nothing unusual in that, all municipalities have such arrangements. What is interesting is the numbers involved.

In 2011 the city cremated over 1,800 bodies, these were people where no next of kin could be found or where the next of kin where unable or unwilling to take responsibility. Over the preceding three years 400 sets of cremated remains were claimed by relatives.

So in December a multi-faith ceremony was held for the 1,489 sets of ashes that remained unclaimed. You might say: well LA is big, the number of deaths is large so this figure is not massive. But looking at the statistics in LA county there are about 60,000 deaths per year. That means that around one in forty gets left unclaimed. It ranges from the young to the old: 137 babies, 2 children, 853 men 436 women, from a wide range of ethnic backgrounds.

Why? Well partly cost, the cost of cremation is around $400 which needs to be repaid if the ashes are to be collected and many families are unable and/or unwilling to pay. Some have become estranged from their families and for some there is simply no one else to do it.

The ceremony was attended by around sixty people half of whom were journalists, and the ashes were laid to rest under a simple concrete marker inscribed 2011.

A rather bleak story to start the year I admit, but according to genealogist who set up a database to help reunite families with their deceased relatives the situation is getting worse or as she profoundly described it: a ‘silent epidemic’.

LA sets trends in many arenas, so is this a sign of things to come, are the root reasons applicable elsewhere? In answer – I hope not, but the two principal reasons one would imagine are poverty and the breakdown of family values. Poverty has always been a reality, as for family values …? I don’t subscribe to a nihilist view of society, but certainly this does add to the voice to the harbingers of doom.

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Is a columbarium a mausoleum? A hot debate in Wisconsin

mausoleum columbarium dispute

The attorney general of Cedarburg city, Michael Herbrand thinks so, but the reverend of the local Advent Lutheran Church disagrees. So why is this such a big deal? Well the Church had deigned a columbarium for their downtown (city centre) church which was to be the resting place for a number of its congregation; they had already sold a proportion of the niches and could have easily expected to sell the rest. They had permission initially from the city council but this had lapsed, they came to renew it but this time it was rejected. The members of the committee had reconsidered their opinion and said a place for laying the dead to rest was incompatible with the general hustle and bustle of a city centre.

The churches choose to ignore this and carry on regardless believing that it they were entitled to do it anyway. However they had to down tools when the man with clipboard turned up and told them to stop.

The fandangle seems to revolve around whether it can actually legally be sited there. The attorney general is of the opinion that is it is the same as a mausoleum and as such must be contained within a cemetery; the church is in the town centre and therefore can not be a cemetery as there are a number of caveats – proximity to dwelling etc. The reverend of the church thinks this is nonsense and the columbarium should not be considered the same as a mausoleum.

It is likely to end up in court. Where only the lawyers stand to gain.

It seems to me the council are legally correct whilst the church seem to have the moral high ground. We know in law that cremated remains are considered the same as a body so the inference that this is therefore equivalent to a mausoleum is probably correct. However the rejection of the planning permission after is lapsed seems unfair, committee members considering that the columbarium now seems incompatible with other activities in the area is petty narrow-minded and unkind.


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cannon used to scatter ashes

A send-off with a bang! Memorialised though a cannon blast

FOX Carolina 21


Now this is on the unusual side, a long time firearms enthusiast has had his ashes blasted out of a replica US civil war cannon. Now that is a proper send-off!

Julian ‘Boyd’ Mercer lost his fight with cancer in September at a the age of 49. He had been a longtime fan of competitive shooting and member of both the United States Practical Shooting Organization and the Spartanburg Practical Shooting Organization.

He had mentioned to his son Garris that he thought having his cremation ashes fired out of a cannon would be a fitting exit, Garris then went to arrange the ceremony.

So on a cool September morning family and friends gathered for the occassion. It began when a cannoner wearing a black arm band approached the cannon, which stood next to a Confederate flag. Then in accordance with Civil War tradition, the cannoner took down the flag and placed his arm band around it, to signify that it would not fly again for the rest of the day.

The gunner then readied the cannon for firing and lit the fuse. The roar that followed rocked the heavy iron gun, leaving smoke a ringing in the ears.

A sombre moment that was met with a mixture of cheers, tears and applause.

I like this – a unique and distinctive send-off. I was only left with one question, what is practical shooting? Is there impractical or reckless shooting clubs, actually scratch that, I don’t want to know – it scares me!!

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modern day grave robbing cremated remains

Grave robbing – don’t move ashes without permission!

modern day grave robbing cremated remains

Hardly the modern day Burke and Hare, however the crime of digging up and removing ashes under the law in is the same: abuse of a corpse


Three men in he US have been in charged with ‘grave robbing’ after they dug up the cremated remains of two of their relatives in order to move them to another cemetery in Maine.


Kevin Lewis, Travis Lewis (and their uncle Calvin) dug up the remains of their father and brother (Richard Lewis Snr and Jnr) from a cemetery in Standish in order to move them to the family plot in Limington.


The incident came to light when one of the brothers informed the ex-partner of Richard Lewis Jnr – who is also the mother of his children – of what they had done. She was not happy about this and informed the authorities. She had bought the original plot in Standish and it would appear wished him to remain there.


Kevin Lewis, told the Portland Press Herald that they thought they ‘had a right’ to move family members and the graves were not marked where they were. He said: ‘My father’s parents are there [in Limington] and it’s where everybody else will be buried,’ “We did dig them up and move them, but she didn’t pay for my father’s funeral,” he said. He said eight people attended his father’s interment. “We appreciated what this woman did,” Kevin Lewis said. “Everything she did was really polite, very nice.” He said the family and his brother’s ex-girlfriend have gotten along well.

The remains were returned to their original resting place in Standish in August 2014.


The men have been issued a summons to appear in Bridgton District Court on November 18 on a charge of abuse of a corpse.


Quite a sad tale, I will report on the outcome of the trial. I do have a certain sympathy for the Brothers, but I am thinking that their excuse isn’t the best of ever heard, but I guess they decided to act as they new the correct channels would be expensive and likely to be difficult (if not fruitless).


The moral of the story: the law does not differentiate between ashes and physical remains copse, so think in advance and do it properly mess up.

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Robin Williams’ ashes scattered near those of his mother

cremated remains robin williams

Screen star Robin Williams sadly committed suicide in the summer. Some time soon after the service his ashes were scattered near to where his mother’s ashes where spread: off the coast of Marin County in the US.

His mum had passed away back in 2001 and Robin was the executor of the will. He and his mother were very close and she often attended galas or premiers with him.

His final place of disposition was listed on the death certificate as “scattering in San Francisco Bay off the coast of Marin County.”

After his death Williams’ widow said he was suffering from depression, anxiety and a secret diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease.

It is such a shame – he was such a great actor, I did ways feel that there was the tortured sole within him, which came through in many of the roles he played. I don’t claim to be anything of crystal-ball gazer, but his death like that of Philip Seymour Hoffman, were not totally unpredictable. I think the extremes of emotion that must trigger such an action were part and parcel of what made them so special.

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ashes dispute

Florida court decides ashes are NOT property


ashes dispute

The tragic case of a feuding parents fighting over their sons ashes has come a step further to concluding when the 4th District Court of Appeal decided that the ashes were not property. 

Scott Wilson a 23 year old was killed in a car accident 4 years ago. He was cremated, but his parent’s who are embroiled in a bitter divorce, could not agree what to do with his cremated remains.

His father William Wilson wanted to split the ashes so he could bury half at the family plot in Gerogia, his mother who did not want the ashes split for religious reasons wanted them interred where he was bought up in Florida.

The court decided that as the ashes where not property so they could not instruct that they be divided.

The court referred back to statue dating back from 1753. And a similar case in Florida from 2005, which declared, “a dead body is not properly viewable as property or assets,” plus a 2007 case in Pennsylvania which was also relevant

The Judge said: “Given the sensitive nature of the subject matter, and the fact that, historically, cremated remains have been treated the same as a body, neither constituting ‘property,’ we decline to craft a policy at odds with our history and precedent,” the court wrote. “This is a matter best left to our legislature should it decide to address this sensitive policy issue.”

Mr Wilson does not plan to appeal the ruling.

So what happens now? Well the State court gave co-personal representatives for the father and mother thirty days  to find a place to bury Wilson’s ashes. Then sadly if they can’t reach an agreement, the court is likely to appoint a curator to carry out the task.

Finally I think the legislature should be updated, and that ashes baring strong religious reason be allowed to be divided. And while they are at it, they should make people’s final wishes legally binding too.


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washington ashes thief drag

Cross-dressing thief steals ashes

I often wonder whether the world is becoming stranger or that weird things always happened but now communication is much better so we see more of them. In this case we have a fairly well reported occurrence: the theft of ashes. Readers unacquainted with the blog may not know this is common, but it  is, well sort of …when I say common not like stealing an iphone or similar and it is still news worthy at a local level but not unheard of. The theft usually happens by mistake – the hapless burglar bungs all the expensive looking items in his swag bag before scarpering.

However, here we have something out of the ordinary, the following took place in Edmonds in Washington State, USA. The thief, clearly a man, sneaks into the bedroom of the victim wearing a dress, not in the way of a transvestite may with makeup and such, more of a ‘Rugby Boy’ going to a party.

Have a look for yourself (sorry can’t do anything about the advert) and see if you can answer my questions below the clip…

  1. Why was he guarding his face?
  2. Did he know about the camera and the location of the items as he went straight for them?
  3. Had he had been there before?
  4. Does everyone have these mini security cams these days?

He reckons he know the man – I dare say, he is the 6ft one in the pub wearing a pink tutu

It is a big world.

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ashes of scott wilson dispute

A legal battle to have a sons ashes divided: are the ashes property?

ashes of scott wilson dispute

Who owns cremated remains: case comes to court in the US

One of the common questions that we are asked is: who owns ashes? Looking at various statutes, we are of the opinion it that no one can, in the same way as you can’t ‘own’ a person or a body. So we are watching with interest a case that has actually come to court in America that is focusing on just this subject.

As with all these stories, it is a sad, a couple are divorced and lost their son in an accident. They have different wishes for what to do with his remains: his mother wishes them to stay in the locality where they live, whereas his father wants them to be interred in the family plot in a different State.

In the video clip you get to see the lawyer arguing a very interesting point. I am paraphrasing a little but… the lawyer makes the point that if the couple had chosen burial you wouldn’t say that they could own the body, so why would this change just because they have opted for a different form of funeral? Whereas the other side makes the point: any ashes should be considered property because they’re considered “owned” by whoever has possession of them. Therefore, they can be divided.

We will be following the case and will report on the outcome. And whilst American courts obviously cannot set precedent in other countries, it is, I believe the case, that a lawyer will look beyond there national boundaries in certain circumstances as the legal systems in many English speaking countries is not radically different from other British style legal systems and the arguments invoked are like to be the same.

Original story:

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cemetery dispute name

No ashes – No Date – A Catholic cemetery gets strict


Four daughters are in a dispute with a Catholic cemetery in Cudahy, Wisconsin in the US. The cemetery has refused to have their mother’s year of passing put on the family headstone.

The mother, a Mrs Rita Sztukowski, died in April 2013 and her family opted to have her cremated, splitting the ashes between her offspring who where then able to choose the manner in which to memorialise her, and some have chosen to put a small amounts into some jewellery. So far so good – all amicable and well meaning.

However when they asked the Holy Sepulcher Cemetery to put their mother’s date of passing on the family headstone the cemetery said: No.

Why, well the cemetery is Catholic and they have quite strict rules on such matters, the cemetery’s director told them it was against tradition to recognise a burial unless all the remains are buried together in the plot. So what appears to have happened is that the family had the words ‘In cherished memory’ carved in to imply that there were no remains there (and then to add on the date), but the cemetery still said no. The main issue is that under catholic doctrine you can’t split the ashes, they are to be treated like a body. The fact that family is lapsed doesn’t make a difference.

Shelley Blackwood, 48 – one of Rita’s four daughters – told MailOnline: ‘We don’t want her to be in the cold ground. It’s hard for us because we live all across the U.S. and we just want her close to us.’

She added: ‘My sisters and I aren’t Catholic any more and we don’t know the rules of the church.

‘But my mother said “throw me in the tomatoes – maybe I’ll be good for the garden.’ She wouldn’t have cared.

‘We had the funeral for her last May so this has gone on for almost a year. The way he has handled this is ridiculous.

‘The cemetery is very special to us and it’s where our father used to take us as a place of peace, so going there and seeing those numbers missing makes it very hard to grieve.’

Their family plot is home to the remains of five relatives, including Rita’s husband Norbert, his parents and two others.

I can see both sides, but I would have the thought the ‘in cherished memory’ would have done the trick. Then when I read on, got a taste of the opinion of the cemetery director, I think you get a sense that he is not one for compromise…Butch Miller, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: ‘If you let this go, then what’s next? “Oh, I want to have a statue of Satan on the cemetery grounds. I want the crucifix upside down. I want the Virgin Mary with a dagger in her womb.” What’s next?

He added: ‘Our policy is on Christian burial beliefs, and when we have a person who has been cremated and they wish to have those cremated remains whole and buried at our cemetery, that is the only way we’ll recognise.’

When confronted with someone as hard line as that, who can see this act as the thin end of a wedge, with all sorts of demonic idolatry at the other, then I suspect it wont be a happy ending for the family. I always think it is a shame when the church loses perspective of core moral values placing them behind an unbending adherence to, in my opinion, second tier principles.


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What Are the Pearl-Like Objects Found in Monks’ Ashes After Cremation? Still None the wiser!

ashes monks ashes science john thompson

Some time back I posted on the subject of the bead/pearl like objects occasionally found after a certain Buddhist monks are cremated – known as sarira or ringsels. These objects are highly prized and supposed to be a sign of divinity. However try as I might I could not find what they were or how they were formed (apart from cosmic forces that is). Well imagine my delight when an article popped up entitled What Are the Pearl-Like Objects Found in Monks’ Ashes After Cremation?

So I clicked to be enlightened. Umm I thought it was from Stanford University – credible.  But the study wasn’t about the actual beads per se but about the energy surrounding them (dingaling – that’s the sound of the cynical alarm bell ringing in my head).  I know, I know there is ‘stuff’ we don’t know and I shouldn’t poo-poo such things, but I did have a flash back to John Thompson playing the kooky american scientist in the Fast Show (hence the picture).

The lead author Nisha Manek is not a Buddhist but she said she felt an aura from the objects and the team tried to work out whether this was subjective.

Ms Manek  explained : “I felt a tangible radiation of exquisite energy flowing from the relics to my heart center. It was highly private and personal, and yet conveyed an immense sense of Oneness or unity with everyone and everything. It had no counterpart in ordinary experience.”

The researchers used methods developed by the physicist William Tiller to objectively measure what Manek perhaps felt. It is his theory that are two types of substances. One is the kind we are able to perceive with our conventional sensors; he describes these substances as being in the electric atom/molecule level. The  other kind exists in the space between the atoms and molecules.

Tiller and Manek’s study of the relics found that the relics have been imprinted with human intention. Tiller says:

“Although we may not consider these objects … to have phenomenal consciousness, there is no doubt that an aspect of consciousness is imprinted into both kinds of objects. In the case of the Buddha relics, over hundreds of years, reverential ‘pumping’ has kept these objects imprinted. If there is no respect or love, the relics disappear,” the report states. The researchers also found that “the atom-molecules within the space [around the relics] are ordered more coherently.”

In conclusion the study suggest the sarira may have a certain energy about them that can impact worshipers, but the energy may in part be projected onto the sarira by the worshipers. 

I say Holmes you have it!  Sorry Sorry this is me not them. I admit to a tingle like feeling when in the British Library in the section with many of the famous texts, but I do wish some would just appease  my western way of thinking and tell me what they are and the process that creates them….

Original article:

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cremation urn theft

Couple steal their own son’s ashes

cremation urn theft

Crime and ashes catches the medias attention, often a hapless bugler nabbing and urn not know what it was and then occasionally returning them through a pang of remorse.

This is a bit different and comes from Bridgeport in Connecticut in the US. The couple in question tragically lost their son, when they came to collect their sons ashes and pay the remainder of the funeral directors fees. However when left unattended, they took them and ran

Funeral director Edgar Rodriguez says the couple’s debt was less than $1000 and what make this more interesting is that surveillance cameras in the funeral home filmed the whole thing.

Mr Rodriguez said:

“He goes down, opens the door, pulls the ashes out and then comes upstairs, tells his girlfriend he’s got the ashes and they both run out the door,” Rodriguez described.

He went on to say “Do they truly find closure knowing that they actually stole the ashes? Do they truly find closure knowing that they never did everything correctly?”

Mr Rodriguez had told them he could reduce the bill (but we don’t know by what amount).

I feel sympathy for all involved, the funeral director for loss of income, everyone tends to side against a company in such instances, thinking ‘oh they can afford’ well that is not always the case and not the point. I also feel sorry for the couple who felt they had to stoop to stealing to reclaim the ashes. The truth is we so rarely see the detail to consider the right moral response (if there is only one).

It did make me wonder why has a funeral directors got a surveillance camera, are they in a particularly rough area, who steals from a funeral home .. a modern day Burke and Hare?! I sense I may be being a bit naïf here but still…

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NYC unclaimed ashes

When reality TV encounters cremation ashes

NYC unclaimed ashes

Storage Wars is a popular US reality daytime show, that is also broadcast over here in the UK. This is a slightly odd concept to my mind. The premise is you follow people around whose business is purchasing the contents of storage units. The container contents are auctioned unseen to the highest bidder (the original tenant has defaulted and gone into arrears) . You film them to see if they have a got a bargain or a buffer.

One former contestant Mr Steve Monetti got a surprise when he spent $550 on the contents of a lock-up in Harlem, New York City (USA) that contained 31 urns and set of ashes.

“Something came over me. I just felt I had an aura, that I had to purchase this unit,”

“I thought I had seen it all until I saw this,”

“This was the scariest abnormal feeling. The hair stood up on my neck. I started seeing the amount of people. I kept finding more and more and more,” Monetti said.

The property belonged to Ms Eugenia Street until recently, when she fell behind on her rent for the locker. The contents originally belonged to her late uncle Warren Blake. He was a New York Police Detective, who also ran a funeral home in Harlem. When the company folded all the ashes where put in storage, “I’m just sorry people never came to claim their loved ones. They’ve been abandoned for a long period of time.” She said.

The police and medical examiner’s office determined there was no crime committed.

The cremated remains will be brought to another funeral home in Harlem with hopes that the families of lost loved ones will be identified.

Sad, but not surprising I suppose, very kind of the other funeral director to take on the liability as there is little chance that anyone will reclaim them. We don’t tend to think of funerals going bust, but of course they do so what do other do in such circumstances? Perhaps there should be some municipal provision for this?

I also thought was interesting that a police detective was allowed to / had time to run a funeral home!


Original Story:

picture copyright

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facebook scattering CJ image sent with ashes

Social media (Facebook) helps a mum scatter her sons ashes

facebook scattering CJ image sent with ashes

One can’t escape ‘social media’, however often it is reported in a negative context – whether it’s cyber bullying or someone knowing your inside leg measurement. Anyway, it nice to report on a positive outcome for a change. It is a positive outcome, but from a sad story, CJ Twoney a young man from Maine in the US, took his own life after not coming to terms with the fact that he had not made the US special forces.

His urn sat on the shelf for over three year and then his Mum, Hallie Twomey , decided that she would like to help give CJ one last journey. She sent out a simple request on Facebook to help C.J – ‘see the mountains that he never got to climb, see the vast oceans that he would have loved, see tropical beaches and lands far and away’. The post was quickly shared by around 100 of her friends, and soon even strangers started offering to scatter C.J.’s ashes where they lived or whilst on their holidays. So she started a separate Facebook page called ‘Scattering C.J.‘, which at the time of writing had almost 15k ‘likes’. Packets, numbering in the hundreds, containing a little of CJ ashes have been sent all over world …she now has an application form that people need to fill in! Along with his ashes, CJ’s Mum sends a note to the recipient and a small photo of smiling C.J, wearing a Boston Red Sox shirt with sunglasses propped up on his head (the picture above). She asks the recipient to do four things:

  • Think about C.J.,
  • think about the people he gave life to through organ donation,
  • tell him that his mom and dad loved him;
  • and tell him that his mom is sorry.

When most of C.J.’s ashes have been scattered, she would like to put together a book with all the notes and photos people have sent her, with the proceeds would go to the New England Organ Bank. It turns out, perhaps not unsurprisingly, that many of those offering to help scatter C.J.’s ashes have also been affected by suicide or lost children.

Mrs Twoney said ‘I don’t want him to have to sit in an urn for my benefit for whatever rest of time that we have,’ she said. ‘I wanted to give him something. I’m trying to give him a journey.’ She has been overwhelmed by the kindness. ‘Really, why would a complete stranger want to help us?’ she said. ‘I really think people are doing whatever they can, even if it’s a small thing, to ease our burden or to embrace life.’

Brilliant just brilliant, so rarely do we here about the good things the internet can do – what a wonderful thing to do for her son and his memory. The story speaks for itself really, but there is one thing I would like to add. Bless her, she does not need to say sorry, I understand that people sometimes hold themselves responsible when terrible things happen – but she didn’t do it and would have moved heaven and earth to prevent it had she of known.

Original story:

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Lazy or accidently misleading: Ashes from DNA

dna ashes mix up

The Daily Mail ran a story on it’s website entitled DNA test on some cremated remains after woman found wrong body in her mother’s casket.

I thought blimey that’s interesting I was told the heat from the crematoria destroyed all the DNA. So I clicked with interest. Only to discover that is not what has happen at all. Actually what did happen is a little confusing – but that is not to do with the DNA. So still as far as we know DNA can’t be recovered from ashes, but there is another odd if a little gruesome conundrum.

Two ladies died on an island ST Maarten in the Caribbean. One lady is sent to New York, the other to Canada. The New York family find that the body inside the casket hey receive is not their relative, the body that ended up in Canada looks likely to be theirs. Oh dear now that is not good.

The New Yorker who ended up in Canada was cremated. So the family to prove this they have sent off her toothbrush and hair brush to be compared with sample from “bodily fluids were recovered from a casket in Canada that might have contained [the] body.”

So the lady was removed from the coffin before cremation? What was the coffin being kept for? Was it a special air freight coffin? All sounds a bit grim and the poor family! Well I hope they get it sorted.

Orlando Vanterpool (great name) said he thought he had sent the right ones, but if not was going to offer a refund! How kind is that?! Well yes not very.

Here is the original story:



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we don't want the ashes back

We don’t want the ashes back


I am always keeping an eye out for news stories and when I started posting I would say every week there is a story about some cerebrally challenged crook who mistakenly pinches an urn and the family are pleading for it back (often with happy endings I am delighted to say), then there are the urns that go missing or are mislaid through all manner of odd different circumstances. Then lastly urns that turn up in odd places (charity shops are a favourite).

This one is slightly different, a hapless samaritan came across the ashes of a deceased lady in a car park in a call Victorville (An industrial and residential city in southern California, northeast of Los Angeles USA) and set about reuniting the ashes with the family, after some detective work she got call from the pastor who administered the lady’s service letting her know that the family didn’t want her back but didn’t know why.

How sad is that? I think what makes it worse is the photo of the deceased on the urn, as a young woman. Even if the family didn’t want them in the house you would think a little scattering ceremony would have sufficed. Instead she is left in a car park, whatever the reason it somehow doesn’t seem right.

Original source:

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kentucky vetrans retiring flag

Respecting the ashes of a flag: a ceremony for retiring ceremonial colours in the US


On the blog we discuss many aspects of the cremation ashes ceremony including the dignity and the meaning. This is a story that comes from Richmond, Kentucky USA  and it sparked my thinking on logical extensions from memorialising human ashes to that of a nations symbols – The flags of state and it’s institutions. Before we start I will admit to being a bit of a fan of flags (Vexillology for those wish to know the proper word) as you will see from many of my blog post pictures.

Anyway, here we have veterans’ from the area ‘retiring’ their county’s colours, when they are a bit too worn for display purposes. The veterans, with Brownies and Girl Scout Cadet Troop in attendance, carried out a ceremony to respectfully dispose of the flags. How is that done then, I hear you ask? Well, an honour guard is formed; a volley of shots is fired; a veteran plays “Taps” on a bugle; and then a container holding the old and faded flags is set ablaze, inside a sort of brazier or garden incinerator. The whole procedure is prescribed in a 1942 federal statute.

When the cremation was complete the ashes are to be buried in U.S. Army flag. After the ceremony, each scout who participated was presented a flag ceremony patch or badge.

Flags are truly fascinating (my wife thinks this aspect of my persona is a bit odd). The difference between the reverence in Britain and America is marked. I am sure you could write a dissertation on it, but Brit’s relationship with the Union Jack (yes I know that is the slang term for it) is complex what with it being made up made from three of the four countries in the UK (yes I know the reason for Wales). Whereas in the US it is perhaps more simple, as a younger country, with some good principles (apart from the right the bear arms) and not so much colonial baggage, the fact it is a democratic republic and that one gets a slightly indoctrinated by swearing allegiance to the flag makes it all that bit more important. None the less, the flag is part of being an American, so it is understandable then that such reverence is put into the way they are disposed of, even to the extent of having it defined in statute! To be honest I can’t see this one crossing the channel, the only time you ever see the Union Jack being burnt is when another nation or its people has yet again got cross with the UKs stance on foreign (or even internal) policy and decide to ‘show-off’ in the normal fashion.

On top of the general level of interest two further bits of detail caught my eye, firstly when the ashes are cremated they are buried in a flag – how does that work – what about that flag? The second is there is scout ‘flag ceremony’ badge / patch… which to my mind means both: it is a big deal; and there is a wide number of badge activities.

I could spend hours on this, in fact I may dig out the US statute…

Original source:


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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…

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scattering trebuchet

Medieval fashion – ashes launched from a Trebuchet or Catapult


Flung from a mighty medieval war engine, sailing into the sky then boom! The ashes scattered across the the target – what a way to go!

Well okay perhaps not everyone’s cup of tea, but I would wager there are plenty people out there who would like it! Okay mainly your armour clad battle enactment lovers, perhaps a few engineers and the odd history lover maybe – see more than you would think.

Imagine. The Drum beating out, the clash of steel and wood, then silence, the pull of the lever and woosh!

Now I haven’t quite laid this on a plate for you, but here are some starters.

Option One: from a Working Replica, to date I have found two full size working trebuchet in the UK (there may be more)

All you need to is persuade them to let you use them for this activity, umm ok tall order perhaps, but you never know.

Option Two: Build your own. Again perhaps an issue, but I have found a website which has plans for a model that can sling a boulder of 6lbs in weight, which should do the job –

If you are from The States you could do it as part of a Trebuchet building competition, they hold a competition called Siege the Day (very good) in which you could participate,  failing that I suppose you could ask one of contestants to lend you one?

Option Three: Get someone to build one for you, bit pricey but still, these guys built one for the BBC Carpenter Oak and Woodland

Option Four: Reconstruct one as part of a memorial event. This is my favourite (although I have not approach the company involved) based in Bedfordshire on a sort of activity centre, you get to build the trebuchet from the kit and fire it. It says once constructed it is capable of firing a water balloon or football up to 120 feet. Go to Lee-leisure

So how would you fire the ashes? Again I think we have a couple of options, one would be to make a missile out of paper mache, using a blown up balloon (not too challenging), the other use one of our floating ball urns they would do the trick.
Lastly the script, something from Henry V  ‘Once more into the breach…’ or maybe Monty Python and the Holy Gail ‘Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries!’
 ashes catapult
Over to you, good luck, and let us know how you get on….

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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