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Ashes. They are more than just ashes. They are the sacred remains of loved ones who have passed before us- they are special.

And how we treat something so special is a very personal and often difficult choice. 

1. Scattering of Ashes

Recently I went on a hiking and riding trip in Colorado. Somewhere in the mountains on the Cottonwood Pass, I became tired and needed to pitch my hammock for a break.

I found a quiet little spot with several trees and a beautiful view- the perfect place for a short afternoon nap! As I went to lay in the hammock a little rock under a tree caught my eye. It was a simple river rock with a name and a saying engraved into it. Given that I love memorials, I got up to go check it out. And do you know what I discovered? I discovered that it wasn't the only memorial rock under that tree! There were about a dozen or so resting in the shade of the sturdy little pine, commemorating the lives of special people that I did not know.

Of course, one will easily assume that this little spot in the mountains is a popular place for ashes of loved ones to be scattered. And what a nice, peaceful little spot it was! What struck me was that the family members and friends of those who had been scattered desired for it to be known that their loved one once lived and made an impact; they deserved to be memorialized, even if only a limited number of people would see the memorial.

Of course scattering of one's ashes can be done at any place that a loved enjoyed visiting or held dear. The key to doing it is to ensure that future generations know exactly where those ashes had been scattered. Keeping this information for future generations is a part of your loved one's story and legacy. It is neat for children of the future to visit a special place and know that their ancestors considered it to be special.

I once had a customer who had buried her husband in the cemetery. She purchased a double stone for him and herself, but she did not want to be buried there. Instead, she wanted her ashes scattered in the ocean. So what we did was put her information on the headstone as if she were there. Then, on the back of the stone we notated that her ashes had been scattered off the coast of San Francisco- a place she had loved to visit. This was a wonderful way of documenting where she had been scattered and why. It was her hope that future generations of family would visit San Francisco and find it to be just as enjoyable as she had.

2. Keeping of Ashes

I keep every single picture I have ever been given. Photos of classmates from years ago, photos of pen pals from elementary schools, photos brought in by customers- literally every single photo.

I suppose I keep them because they are photos of real people. A part of me feels as though I am disrespecting them if I simply toss their image away- never again to be remembered. So I keep them in drawers, containers, shoe boxes...I really should go through them and organize them.

Anyway, sometimes handling a loved one's ashes can be a lot like my "refusal to discard a photo" issue- it can be difficult to let a loved one's ashes be lost in the wind or scattered into the air. If this describes you and your feelings on ash scattering, then you have several options available to you.

The first option is to keep the ashes in a decorative urn at your home. This is a great option that keeps your loved one near to you every day. But one thing to keep in mind is that, as time passes, no one will treat your loved one's ashes with the same level of care and consideration as you do. In fact, if something were to happen to you, it is likely that a new generation would be left wondering what to do with the ashes. And they may not do with them what you would like for them to.

Because nothing in the future is certain, we recommend developing a plan for your loved one's ashes. While this may sound "hokey" to some, it is wise to let your heirs know where the ashes are being kept and what you would like to have done with them. This will help your heirs carry out your wishes in a manner they can feel at peace with.

If you find that you are ready to part with the ashes, try finding a columbarium at your church, or a peaceful cemetery where you may inter them.

Interring the ashes in a columbarium is a great option for those who have a columbarium nearby. Many churches and cemeteries have columbariums - large structures that many say look like "post office boxes". Those boxes are actually areas for an urn and small mementos to be permanently stored. Typically a family can engrave the door with their loved one's name and dates of life along with anything else the establishment allows.

Another option is to inter your loved one's ashes in the cemetery. Some families choose to bury the ashes under the headstone when it is erected, some choose to bury the ashes in the actual plot and others choose to store the ashes inside of the headstone.

One great benefit of utilizing a columbarium or a cemetery is the opportunity to permanently honor your loved one. A memorial etched in stone serves as a permanent record of one's life and legacy for generations yet to come.

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