Scattering ashes on the sea has become a much more popular method of burial. It’s not just that it is much less expensive. Traditional values that used to require a land burial are changing. In times past, most families would live in the same area where they were born for their whole life. Generations were buried in the same cemetery, often in a family plot. It was common to visit the graves of their family members on a regular basis.
In the 21st century, things have changed tremendously. Today, in much of the country, it is unusual for a family group to live in the same location as their parents. The current generation is much more fluid. A family may live in several different areas in their lifetime – nowhere near the graves of their loved ones. Ties to land burial are not nearly as strong as before. The thought of tying up a plot of land into perpetuity that the family will not visit seems no longer viable.
Added to this are the concerns of pollutants associated with land burials. According to Wikipedia, each year 30 million board feet of hardwoods, 104,272 tons of steel, 2,700 tons of copper, 1,636,000 tons of concrete and 827,060 US gallons of embalming fluid including formaldehyde are buried in US cemeteries. With today’s environmental awareness, compare the above with scattering nonpolluting ashes in the ocean and you can see why there is such a major shift to cremation and burial at sea.
Land burials are often morbid and depressing, with a pall of sadness and gloom hanging over the family for days. This is not the case when scattering a loved one’s ashes at sea. I have been doing burials at sea for 15 years now and I can count on one hand the number of families that have returned to the dock overly sad. There are some tears and sadness as the family says their goodbyes before the ashes are scattered.
However, after the ashes are scattered, while we are there in the boat watching the ash cloud disperse, as the rose petals sail off in the breeze, and the seagulls whirl down to check them out, it is like an emotional release as the family remembers their good times with the deceased.
It is as though the sea, along with the sea life – dolphins, sea lions, seagulls, pelicans and all sorts of sea birds, washes away the sadness and wraps the family in a blanket of peace.
Captain Ken Shortridge
Ashes on the Sea