Monday, August 24, 2009

Ashes and Sea

Here is a story shared by a reader, recounting her experience of burying her mother and sister at sea. The story reminds me of how important ritual can be. Whether it is a traditional religious rite, or something the family creates on their own, ritual marks the passing of a loved one, and helps us to accept it so that we can move forward with our lives. I hope that everyone will find the comfort of ritual when a loved one dies. While I encourage families to plan their services right away, this story shows that it is never too late to benefit from a meaningful ceremony.

ashes ocean sea
Sea scattering service from Sea Burials LLC

I lost my mother from cancer 24 yrs ago and I lost my sister from cancer 4 yrs ago. My sister had kept my mother's ashes under her bed till she passed away. So when it was time to bury my sister we knew they had to be buried together. They both wanted to be buried at sea, so we charted a boat through a funeral home in Redondo Beach, Ca.
I was able to watch the undertaker empty my mother’s ashes into a basket that we had filled with flowers. Being that she was cremated 20 years prior, her remains were ash and chunks of bone. When he emptied my sister's ashes, they where all ash. My sister was in one basket and my mother was in another. They tied ropes to each basket and let them float about 40 feet away and pulled the ropes, which dumped the ashes and flowers into the water.


ashes sea ashes ocean
'Shell' Sea Burial Urn from Lots Design, Sweden
This is a visual that is burned into my brain. As the baskets were dumped, the flowers floated on the surface of the water, and as the ashes sank in the water they started to swirl around each other and moved off slowly swirling around each other as if they where becoming one. I wondered if the weight of my mothers bones where pulling the ashes inward as they swirled together. But what was noticed by everyone was that they moved sideways through the water instead of straight down. After we could know longer see the ashes and the flowers had scattered we went back to shore. It was an amazing experience. It was very symbolic to see the ashes embrace each other; my sister had grieved for my mother for 20 years!

For another moving story of burial at sea, visit the October post on the HMS Royal Oak

1 comment:

pb said...

This is beautiful. Thanks.

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Funeral service faces a crisis of relevance, and I am passionate about keeping the best traditions of service alive while adapting to the changing needs of families. Feel free to contact me with questions, or to share your thoughts on funeral service, ritual, and memorialization. dailyundertaker@gmail.com

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