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Where Will You Put Cremated Remains?


By Reid Trimble, Licensed Funeral Director and Embalmer and CFO, Trimble Pointe Companies

Cremation rates in North America are skyrocketing. Today, rates of cremation in the United States are around 45 percent. This number is expected to rise above 60 percent in the next 20 years. More and more people are opting to cremate, but what is the family to do once they have possession of a loved one’s cremated remains?

People choose to cremate for many reasons, and what they choose to do with the cremated remains are just as personal. While commonly called ashes, in actuality, the end product from cremation is mostly mineral, made up of harmless, highly portable pulverized bone fragments, which can be buried in cemeteries, kept in mausoleums, placed in a columbarium, put in an urn for placement at home, or scattered in various locations.

It’s the scattering that can present the most challenges, since states, counties, and cities have stitched together an uneven patchwork of laws.

Destination scatterings have become very popular. For example: Diane loved to scuba dive in St. Thomas. Why not release her in the ocean, and maybe she will become part of a coral reef? Don loved the Cubs. Would nothing be more fitting than to spread his ashes inside Wrigley Field?

But wait, before you go trenching, ocean scattering, or hiring a plane to fly over the Grand Canyon, consult with your funeral director to learn the legal guidelines about letting go of cremated remains. Land scatterings cannot take place on private property without the owner’s consent. Ocean scatterings must be legally done three miles off shore, and in water at least 600 feet deep.

When death and cremation takes place out of town, family members may need to fly with their loved one’s remains. Many airlines allow cremated remains onto a flight as carry-on, although you should always call and double check with your airline at least seven days prior to travel. You may want to avoid checking-in cremated remains, on the off chance an airline loses your luggage.

Keep the following in mind:

  • You will want to make sure to arrive at the airport early to deal with security issues.
  • Carry a death certificate with you.
  • Carry cremated remains in an urn that can withstand turbulence.
  • Make sure your urn is TSA safe, and able to be viewed in an X-Ray machine. Wood, glass, or plastic should be fine.
  • Visit the TSA website for more guidelines.

Mailing cremated remains is legal with the right forms, although only the US Postal Service will oblige. FedEx and UPS won’t be any help in this situation.

Cremated remains can also be turned into keepsake merchandise or experiences. Creative entrepreneurs have developed remains that can be exploded as fireworks, used as paint in artwork, or stored inside jewelry. The list goes on — not to mention countless customizable urns. Some urns come with a functional front, like a mantle clock. Companion urns have two chambers, so spouses can be united after a second cremation. Some larger families request miniature keepsake urns, so each family member can possess a small portion of the remains of their loved one.

A portion of remains can be transformed into necklaces and art glass creations. The possibilities are endless. When all is said and done, with the final disposition of the cremated remains, most funeral professionals will agree that some form of celebration of life is needed to help those left behind obtain closure. Additionally, a permanent memorial is helpful, so a life well-lived will be remembered beyond a printed obituary. This can be a monument or marker, engraved and erected at a place where people can visit, which documents, “This man or woman walked this earth.”

Trimble Funeral Home and Crematory, 701 12th Street in Moline, provides a private, interior crematory, plus a Reflection Room, where families can say their goodbyes prior to cremation. The staff offers regular Cremation 101 classes to orient the public to the cremation process, answer questions, and tour the facility. Call 309-764-1144 for more information.