Cremation Ashes: The Strange Places People Spread Them
by Brian Vaszily, Author of the #1 International Bestseller, The 9 Intense Experiences -- named one of the Top 5 Motivational Books -- and Founder of IntenseExperiences.com
When my father died in 1990, his body was cremated per his wishes. While cremation had been popular for eons throughout much of the rest of the world, back then in the United States the cremation rate was still under 20 percent.
The idea of his body becoming cremation ashes made several of the attendees at his funeral raise their eyebrows.
Since then, though -- and pardon the very bad pun -- cremation has been getting hotter in America.
In 2001, according to the Cremation Association of America, 27 percent of all deaths were cremated.
In 2010, there was an estimated 38.15% cremations, according to the National Funeral Directors Association.
Part of the reason for this rapid rise in cremations is surely the cost. While a funeral with a traditional burial may cost in the range of $7000 to $10,000, a funeral with cremation costs $4000 to $6000.
Another part of the reason may be America's fixation on the material world including the body, our corresponding difficulty in acknowledging death and the end of the body, and therefore the psychological finality and "quickness" of cremating a body versus burying it.
But still another part of the reason is the symbolic potential the cremated ashes present.
Put simply, unlike a body which must be buried in a permanent location (an issue itself in an increasingly mobile America), cremation ashes can virtually be spread anywhere ... including anywhere that had meaning to, or that symbolizes, the deceased.
This can obviously be a powerful experience of closure for the living.
Not surprisingly, therefore, the practice of scattering cremation ashes in unusual, non-traditional (and often illegal) locations is, well, spreading.
More than a few dearly departeds' ashes are floating around the corners of Wrigley Field, Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium and other ballparks.
Beaches, favorite rivers and lakes, and local and national parks like Yosemite are standard fare, but spreading ashes at personally meaningful places such as the base of the Washington Monument, off the Stratosphere Tower in Las Vegas, or even outside the Mall of America in Minneapolis is increasingly prevalent.
Still, you know something has truly become popular in America when it has become Disneyfied...
No, That's Not Tinkerbell's Magic Fairy Dust
Video cameras at Disneyland are recording an alarming trend: more and more visitors are spreading the cremated ashes of their loved ones on their favorite attractions.
Disneyland is one of the most visited theme park in the world. It also appears that more cremated ashes are surreptitiously spread there than at any other theme park.
In November 2007, for example, a woman was caught sprinkling ashes from the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. By the end of the attraction's 15 minute duration, she managed to cover much of the “Captain’s Quarters” with the powdery remains of her beloved.
But by far the most popular location in Disneyland to spread cremated ashes of loved ones is in the Haunted Mansion attraction. I suppose they hope to see their face among all those other spirits you see during that ride.
Yet another popular ride to spread ashes is the "It's a Small World" exhibit ... apparently so the spirit of the beloved can hear that nearly-imposible-to-get-out-of-your-head "It's a Small World After All" song for all eternity!
"HEPA Cleanup on Snow White!"
The California Health and Safety Code states it is a misdemeanor violation to scatter human cremation ashes on private property, which includes Disneyland, without written permission (even though the ashes pose no threat to health).
The "crime scene" at the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction after a woman spread ashes of her loved one there. It took the Disney crew more than an hour to clean the attraction of the cremation ashes.
So does that mean you can go to Disneyland and ask for written permission to spread cremated ashes so you aren't breaking the law?
Well, you can. But when Disney representatives are asked for such permision their answer is always no.
To deal with the expanding problem, Disneyland’s custodial department has recently purchased special vacuums with HEPA filters to clean up the symbolic scene. These vacuums can capture the tiny cremated ash of human remains while also capturing the small bone fragments that often remain after the cremation.
When cast members witness the scattering of a powdery substance on a ride, they are required to call the janitorial hotline and quietly use the code "HEPA Cleanup."
But maybe publicizing that fate for the cremation ashes would prevent at least some people from sifting their loved ones around during Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.
Beware of Falling Cremation Ashes
As cremation continues to become more popular in the U.S. -- where, of course, it is our cultural rite to one-up one another in outrageousness -- don't be surprised to hear about people spreading loved ones' ashes in increasingly extreme places.
Movie theaters for a departed film buffs?
Old Country Buffet for departed smorgasbord lovers?
Wal-Mart for devoted but now departed low price shoppers?
Again, spreading the cremated ashes of a loved one in a personally meaningful location can be a very uplifting experience for close friends and family of the departed.
But my hope is that people remain respectful of other people and keep such ceremonies far from potential exposure to the public.
We still have the urn containing my father's cremation ashes.
Though as I recall it my father also enjoyed The Pirates of the Carribean ride, the intention instead is to bury his cremated ashes whereever my mother is buried many, many years hence when she passes away.
As for me, I do want to be cremated as well when I die.
As I find sanctuary in woods, I'd like the ashes buried or spread by trees that have some significance to the loved ones I leave behind.
But then again, Space Mountain IS one of my all-time favorite rollercoasters...
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