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Scattering Gardens: Spaces of Fond Remembrances

by John M. Stuart, MSW

 Many cemeteries now have scattering gardens, beautifully landscaped areas where cremains can be scattered.

Many cemeteries now have scattering gardens, beautifully landscaped areas where cremains can be scattered or buried in biodegradable urns for natural integration into the soil. For those who decide on an ash scattering memorial, these cremation scattering gardens provide an excellent option.

The Glendale Chatham Cremorial Gardens in New Jersey is a meticulously landscaped garden. Within the tranquil and tree-lined setting, choose between a niche and the scattering site. "The scattering garden is a dedicated cemetery property, which means that it will never be designated for another use in the future."

What are ash scattering gardens?

Scattering gardens offer an easily accessible way for family and friends to partake in an ash scattering ceremony. They provide a place for people to scatter ashes of their loved ones without having to purchase a plot or niche in a columbarium wall. After the scattering, cremains (cremation remains) are usually raked into the soil after scattered from an urn for ashes. These areas provide permanent memorial spaces where family and friends can visit and most importantly, can rekindle fond memories.

Scattering gardens usually have a wall or a free-standing marker engraved with individual and/or family names indicating where the cremains have been scattered.  Individual gardens can be dedicated to an entire family. Rocks placed within the landscape also serve as natural markers. Families can share cremains, scattering some in a designated marked space within the garden while keeping aside small portions for cremation keepsakes or small urns.

Creative ways of memorializing include scattering from the memorial urn around our loved one's favorite tree, bush or plant, and creating vibrant outdoor spaces that remind us of the natural regeneration of life. Waterfalls, streams and fountains interspersed with benches and walking paths make for a tranquil environment to celebrate a life well remembered.  These beautiful garden features can also serve as natural memorials. Even a specific bench can be dedicated to a person or family.

Scattering gardens also allow for less expensive ways to create special committal spaces where mountain streams flow, instilling peace and tranquility as we remember those that have passed. After the memorial service has long been adjourned, these beautiful spaces bring to mind an awareness of something in each of us that never dies, the sweet and most vibrant gardens of fond remembrances that make up the soul.

Cremation offers memorial flexibility 

Cremation offers versatility in how we remember a loved one who has died. Every life can be likened to a beautiful mountain stream. Memories weave together and create life’s fabric. When someone we love passes on, we celebrate his or her life as we recall associations. There are many ways to memorialize our loved one, and cremation celebrations and urns provide creative options.

Memorial urns for ashes and jewelry urns are intended to provide an anchor to sweet remembrances. Portions of ashes (cremains) can be shared among loved ones and close friends in multiple geographical locations by keeping them in keepsake cremation urns, small urns or in a wide assortment of urn jewelry. Companion urns memorialize loving and enduring relationships.

Scattering ashes can take place at sea or over a beautiful landscape. Cremains can be contained in an urn for ashes made especially for scattering. Scattering over public lands and other areas is regulated by state and federal law. National parks require a scattering permit. Biodegradable urns are designed to breakdown, blending into the environment. This memorial urn option provides a symbolic return to cherished natural landscapes, assisting loved ones and friends in finding some needed closure.

Yet, with all the memorial options afforded us through cremation, the scattering garden may prove to become an increasingly popular service as more people continue to choose cremation over burial.

Visit OneWorld Memorials’ “Planning Guides” for detailed information on scattering regulations and ideas for ceremonies, biodegradable and keepsake urns.

John Michael Stuart, MSW has been a social worker since 1997. He has worked in nursing home, hospice and home health settings, including one of the nation's largest Social HMO demonstration projects where he coordinated care between physicians, patients and their families. John has had cerebral palsy since birth and has authored Perfect Circles, Redefining  Perfection. He is also a public speaker and currently works as a home health social worker in Las Vegas.  

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