The Vatican has ruled that Catholics who want to be cremated cannot have their ashes scattered or kept at home, but for many, the disposal of ashes, either their own, or those of a loved one, has become a ritual entirely outside the church.
Cremation is growing in popularity. Speaking at the Vatican Cardinal Gerhard Muller noted that in recent decades there had been a huge increase in many countries in cremation over burial, and in the “domestic” conservation of the ashes of the deceased. Though the church favours burial, it does not prohibit cremation.
In Ireland, there are six locations around the island, and cremations account for about 13 per cent of funerals.
The cost of cremation varies but is typically about €400 in Dublin, with charges on top for urns and interment in a cemetery.
For the dying, having their cremated remains scattered in one or many favourite places is often a final wish.
Scattering can seem, on the face of it, a very romantic notion. However, for those who are tasked with the scattering, a few issues should be taken into account.
Don't scatter alone: The first time you are opening the urn to remove cremated remains for Scattering can be highly emotional. Have a friend close by who can support you.
There will be bones: The human body after cremation is not a fine powder but actually a combination of ash and bone fragment. Then contents of the box or urn handed over by the crematorium will be gritty and have shards. Don't be alarmed. It's natural.
Pick a site carefully: If you are travelling to scatter the cremated remains of your loved one, it is possible a location you envisioned may, on arrival, just not feel like the right place. You don't have to have the scattering ceremony until you find the perfect place.
Hand luggage only: If you are travelling by air, don't check in ashes. Best keep them as hand luggage to avoid baggage loss or disruption.
Stay upwind: Scattering at sea is a popular option, but stay upwind. Take a minute to judge wind direction and scatter appropriately. Bring some flowers to scatter on the water with the cremated remains.
Have water or wipes ready: Another fact not often explained is how cremated remains can stick to skin. Bringing water with you will help you scatter your loved one's remains, ensuring all of the ash stays at the location.
Where to scatter ashes
Spread them beneath a backyard tree or flower bed. If the person who died loved to garden, then scattering or burying their ashes in the garden is a fitting tribute. Not only will the person be among the flowers they loved, but they will help to enrich the soil, too.
A favourite local park or golf course, if this is where they like to spend time.
Make them into fireworks. You can have cremation ashes made into bio-degradable fireworks and light them at the end of a memorial service.
Scatter them in a local waterway. You don't have to travel to the ocean to give your loved one a water burial. A local river or stream could work just as well, especially if the person loved fishing or walking.
Set some aside. These could be distributed to children of the deceased later on. Specialist companies supply small urns, lockets and caskets to hold small amounts of remains.
A mountain or beauty spot. Let them loose at the top of a significant mountain or hill.
Launch them into space. While this may seem rather extreme, it's what Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry had done with his remains.