A proper resting place

Cremation: Loved ones and the living deserve respect when remains are buried at sea.

July 28, 1999

FAMILIES burying their loved ones at sea shouldn't throw caution -- or their loved ones' remains -- to the wind. Yet some people have been careless in scattering ashes -- tossing them just offshore into recreational waters without regard to the people who boat, fish or swim there.

This problem has come up time and again in the Anne Arundel community of Venice on the Bay, where people sometimes toss ashes in the water even as children swim nearby. And at least once, ashes have blown onto spectators.

That dishonors the deceased and insults the mourners. None of them came of the funeral ceremony expecting to wear the ashes of the person they sought to remember. And surely the departed never wanted such an outcome, either.

The State Board of Morticians is proposing a regulation to require funeral directors to tell families how to scatter ashes responsibly. Given the increasing popularity of cremation, that seems like a good idea.

Perhaps the ideal way to scatter ashes is the way the Kennedy and Bessette families did it, by tossing the remains off a ship in the open sea. Other choices have emerged, too. People can send ashes to "the gentle, tropical waters of Hawaii," as one Web site advertises; cast them from ships off the Chesapeake or San Francisco bays; or even send small amounts into orbit -- the heavens, you might say.

Anything is better than the reckless and improper disposals that are soiling Venice on the Bay and beachfronts around the country.

California recently became the first state to place restrictions on ash disposal, and now requires that it be done at least 500 yards from shore.

Maryland should follow suit -- for the sake of the living, and the dead.

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