Steve Blow published an article yesterday in the Dallas Morning News which addressed the protocol and legality of scattering ashes after cremation. This is an issue I have wondered about, but have never taken the time to research.
Parent’s Ashes on Hold
Both of my parents passed away within the last four years. They donated their bodies to science research, but their remains were cremated. My siblings and I have not yet reached agreement about what to do with the ashes. Currently, my father perches on a bookshelf in my sister’s house, and my mother resides on a shelf in the most peaceful room in my house.
Should they be scattered in the same place? Would they want to be in the same place throughout eternity? I have this vague thought that it would be great if they could have visiting rights but also have the freedom to explore the great beyond separately. It would be a way that they could fill in some of the blanks of experience each of them missed during their time on earth.
What is the Law Regarding Ashes?
Most people are nervous about scattering ashes because they are not sure of the law. Consequently, ash scattering ceremonies can be surreptitious. A ceremony that should be full of dignity is often interspersed with nervous giggles as participants keep a wary eye out for the law.
Steve Blow, for whom I have much respect as a journalist, did some research to clarify the issue. Texas state law allows for ashes to be scattered over any uninhabited public land, into any public waterway, or on any private property where the owner has given permission. Any public park is fine.
Mr. Blow could not find evidence of anyone ever being fined or arrested for scattering ashes. There were no news articles online about such cases. The consensus seems to be “Don’t Ask. Don’t Tell. Just Do It.”
The funeral director, Jim Sander’s, told the story of a man who arranged his own cremation before he died. He asked that his ashes be scattered at the North East Mall in Hurst Texas. The told Sanders, “I have four grown daughters living here. I figure two or three of them will visit me every day.” So, the daughters scattered his remains to the four winds outside their favorite entrance to the mall. Love it!
Does it Matter?
I can think of endless better uses for money than an expensive funeral. So I hope my executors distribute what parts they can and cremate the rest. Like my parents, I am a registered organ donor. I hope they use every scrap of me that can help someone in the future. It is the ultimate recycling.
I like the idea of planning for my final resting place. I want to go back to the earth and have trees and plants grow over me. And I want to be in a place where wild critters can roam freely. I love the idea of zebras grazing and napping over my remains. Fossil Rim Wildlife Center is about an hour and half from Dallas, and is my special refuge from the noise of life. It has giraffes, zebras, ostriches, wildebeests, and rhinos. I believe Fossil Rim is private property, so any scattering will require permission or will have to done discretely.
Muir Woods is the ultimate natural cathedral. It combines the wonder of discovery with the eternal. Muir Woods is a national park, so it might be legal to scatter me there. I have never lived in California, so Muir Woods might be a bit more impersonal than Fossil Rim.
Let your loved one’s know your wishes. You will enjoy planning your future.