ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — You’ve seen them in people’s homes – those fancy antique-style vases or carved boxes that sit atop mantles above a fireplace or reside on end tables and sideboards.
Rather than a personalized touch of decor, these receptacles often contain the cremated remains of loved ones who may not have left clear instructions on what to do with their ashes.
According to funeral industry statistics, as many as one in five homes in America has a receptacle containing human cremains, and that includes no less than 10,000 homes in the Albuquerque metro area, said Kevin Fuller, communications director with French Funerals and Cremations.
That’s why Sunset Memorial Park, which is operated by French Funerals and Cremations, will hold its first ever “Scatter Day” for people looking for a respectful way to inter the cremains of a loved one for free. Held on Aug. 26, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., there will be two areas available for people to scatter the ashes.
The Kiva area contains an ossuary, where ashes are dropped through a portal into a large underground vault in which the bottom has been removed, allowing the ashes to slowly return to the earth. Bricks lining the floor of the kiva will be etched with the names of the deceased.
The Rose Garden is covered with travertine rocks, among which roses have been planted intermittently. Cremains are scattered among the rocks and are absorbed into the ground. The names of the deceased are etched on a nearby travertine memorial wall.
There is no cost for either the placement of the ashes or the name etching. Visitors may also anonymously leave ashes for scattering with no questions asked.
“A traditional burial allows people to gather with family and friends at a specific spot and time,” Fuller said. But as cremation becomes more common, people often take the cremains home, not giving much thought about what to do with the ashes. In addition, they may not have a spot to go to and gather with others. “Scatter Day at Sunset Memorial Park gives people a day to come together and memorialize their loved ones.”
Chris Keller, vice president of French Funerals and Cremations and Sunset Memorial Park, said that as people who have kept cremated remains at home pass away themselves, “The caregiver or succeeding generations of family members who are cleaning out their home often find urns containing the remains, and are at a loss as to what to do with them.” Some, he said, “end up in garage sales or in a dumpster, and each year multiple urns are abandoned at Sunset Memorial Park by individuals who innately know they don’t belong in a landfill, but who also do not want them at home.”