What to do with Cremated Remains!? Part 1

Posted on January 2, 2020 by Joe Pray under A Day In The Life of a Funeral Director, Cremation
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A cemetery official reveals shocking problems concerning families disposition of cremated remains, or ashes, of their beloved family members.

Put Mom’s urn in Dad’s casket?

“Let’s place mom’s urn in Dad’s casket,” a family may ask us.  We can accommodate that request, if we follow the cemetery rules and provide the proper documentation.  The problem comes when a family decides to just “just slip the urn in” during visitation and we don’t even know about it.  The dilemma for the cemetery is that they have no record of mom being buried there. Only the family member who thinks they snuck one in on us (literally) knows. So two or three generations later somebody doing the genealogy asks “Where is Grandma?”, and nobody knows.

The Proper Way

If ashes are placed in the casket we provide documentation to the cemetery showing that a second person is buried there as well. The cemetery holds it in their permanent records. Everybody then knows where Grandma is. That is much more appropriate and helpful for future generations, especially if they are compiling records for genealogy.

Self Burial?

One sexton gave the example of  receiving a small stone cemetery marker from a family asking that it be put on Grandpa’s grave. The family making the request also mentioned that the grass is always brown on the grave, and if he could fix that? The sexton was confused as he had no record that Grandpa was buried there. As he investigated the grave he found that someone, most likely a family member, had indeed buried someone, presumably Grandpa, on the grave in a vault.

As we checked our records for that family at the funeral home we found that we had indeed provided an urn and vault for that families Grandpa. But the family did not want to make a burial until later in the spring or summer and took the urn and vault home with them. Something they are entitled to do.

At some point the family went out to the cemetery and buried the cremated remains in the vault themselves instead of calling us to arrange for cemetery to perform the burial following normal protocol.  The family had no idea of proper procedure and protocol  for an interment.  As a result they only placed the deceased’s vault an inch under the surface, not leaving enough room for grass root structure to grow. No wonder that grass was brown. AND, the sexton said, it was buried under a tree, so the roots of the tree would most likely have forced the vault to the surface after a few years. That is not something to look forward to in the future.

Again, The Proper Way

What should have been done is to contact the cemetery  and let them know the burial should take place.  We do that for the families we serve on a regular basis.  That way we are assured that the grave is properly prepared and marked for future reference.  It also assures that the cemetery has proper records for future generations who may inquire for genealogy or to simply visit the grave.

Chock Full o’ Nuts

Another horror story this sexton related to me was the Chock Full o’ Nuts burial he encountered.   A family took it upon themselves to bury their grandmother in the deceased’s favorite brand of coffee can.  They thought it was a romantic, or maybe a practical idea.  They hadn’t considered, or perhaps they didn’t care if the can eventually rusted away and provided no protection for the ashes.  That may be a problem on a future date when the sexton is asked to make a proper burial of another relative on that lot and viola, we have to figure out what to do with the small pocket of cremated remains held in the rusted and decayed remains of a Chock Full o’ Nuts coffee can placed in the middle of the grave space!

And Yet Again, The Proper Way

The are two answers to avoid this last scenario. The first answer is to place Grandma’s Chock Full o’ Nuts can in a protective burial vault made for cremation urns.  The second answer is that it is wise to have the cemetery handle the interment to make sure it is carried out properly. The cemetery will also make note in their records to reflect where Grandmother is buried to avoid future problems, and to let future generations know where to find Grandmother.

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