With the highest cremation rate in Canada, it’s not surprising that Vancouver Islanders are also more likely to scatter a loved one’s cremated remains, instead of only interring them.
But because of common misconceptions about spreading remains, families often feel reluctant to discuss their plans with their funeral provider.
Julie Evans, with Sands Funeral Chapel, Cremation and Reception Centre in Colwood, wants to change that.
Know the law
Julie wants families to know that there are no provincial regulations against scattering cremated remains over land and sea in BC, however if on private property, the property owner must first provide permission. If permission has not been granted, no person is allowed to scatter on that property.
Your decision is permanent
It’s important to remember the decision to scatter cremated remains is permanent, so reflect not only on a meaningful location, but one that will continue to be accessible. Often these locations become a place of pilgrimage. One thing to keep in mind, is that the chosen location may be developed or allocated for rezoning and no longer accessible as a place of remembrance. If scattering at a cottage or private residence, remember that the property may be sold in the future. One may also need to consider if older members of the family can access the location, and in all seasons.
“It’s really important to take the time to select a place that is meaningful. Above all do not rush. Choices made under stressful conditions may be regretted later when minds are clear,” Evans says. “The decision is permanent, and we don’t want you to have any regrets.”
Some client families decide to keep a small portion of the cremated remains to have in a keepsake, or inter in a permanent place of remembrance, such as a cemetery. With rising interest in genealogy, remember that the only way to ensure a permanent record of someone’s final resting place is through official interment of even a small portion of their cremated remains.
“For a lot of people it’s important to have a place where they can go to remember a loved one,” Evans says. “We’ve had families come to us after a scattering looking for trusted advice on how to create a permanent memorial.”
Know what to expect
While Hollywood has created an idealized view of how a scattering might look, the reality may be somewhat different, and knowing what to expect can help everyone prepare, Evans says. Despite the commonly used term “ashes,” cremated remains are typically more akin to coarse sand, and may contain some bone fragments. The amount of cremated remains depends on a variety of factors, such as overall health and bone density of the individual.
In regards to the act of scattering itself, be prepared to consider things such as weather, wind, and having the proper tools. When water scattering, some people have experienced the cremated remains returning to shore with the waves, floating on top of the water, or being investigated by curious wildlife.
With an eye to environmental concerns, it’s important to know that cremated remains are packaged inside a plastic bag with a zip tie and metal ID disc, none of which should end up in the ocean. Innovative solutions include a new biodegradable urn with a gelatin bag to hold the cremated remains. Evans’ favourite, newly introduced to Sands Funeral Chapel-Colwood, is shaped like a sea turtle and floats for several minutes to allow a time of reflection before sinking into the ocean. The sea turtle submerges, breaks down, the gelatin bag melts away and cremated remains are dispersed with no risk to wildlife. Other options include several styles of unbleached pressed cotton biodegradable floating urns and keepsake urns which fit in the palm of your hand.
“We have many creative ideas to help make a scattering ceremony meaningful and personal, and we encourage families to call us with any questions they may have,” Evans says.