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Personalized Urns for Ashes - Heartfelt Expressions

By John M. Stuart, MSW

Photo by Expert Infantry: Vietnam War Memorial Wall

How can we memorialize a loved one we have lost? Gravestones are inscribed with dates, and often with meaningful inscriptions reflecting the person who passed. Can memorial urns and keepsake urns be personalized in a similar way? The answer is yes. You can have all the same personalization, inscriptions and memorials and more.

Regardless of whether we choose a traditional burial or cremation, a desire often exists to continue a sense of the vital connection we shared with the loved one who is now gone. Pictures and images trigger sweet recollections of those we no longer have by our side.

Memorial PlackA pair of scissors and a comb is engraved on the headstone of my beloved Aunt Donna with the hard to forget epitaph that simply reads, "Hair Forever.” For those who didn't know my Aunt Donna, an engraving of a pair of scissors and a comb with the clever use of the word "hair" in place of "here" may seem nonsensical. But for those who knew her, this selection of images and words used to memorialize her life make perfect sense.

She was known for her professional role as a beautician who owned a beauty shop for over sixty years. She was also known for kissing your cheeks every time she saw you. When I visit her graveside, fond memories are pleasantly invoked of her beauty shop and the big kisses I received, leaving my cheeks with traces of red lipstick. For those who knew and loved my Aunt Donna, these memories will make her jovial spirit remain, "Here (Hair) Forever".

What do I engrave on a cremation urn?

Like headstones, personalized urns, urn jewelry and cremation keepsakes can serve as a lasting reminder of those who have passed away. While the urn or vessel you choose might be personal enough, you have the option in many cases to have a message inscribed. Short sentiments, such as a fond phrase, a poem, or scriptural verse, pictures and meaningful imagery of special relevance can be engraved or placed on an assortment of custom urns and cremation keepsakes.

An insightful look into the life of a loved one can be helpful in designing a custom urn. My grandfather loved to spend time among tall pine trees of a serene mountainous landscape. Our most precious moments with him were joyfully spent exploring the great outdoors. It isn't any wonder that images of two beautiful pine trees are engraved on his headstone. Personalized cremation urns for display can also honor those who have diligently served in the Armed Services. There are urns with patriotic imagery, flags and symbols from the service served. You can also list rank, dates served or the unit in an inscription. There are many ways to personalize the vessel.

Can I put a quote or poem on a memorial urn?

Favorite quotes, poems and meaningful images engraved on the outside of a custom urn can stimulate sweet remembrances and strum the heart strings of the soul. Biodegradable urns that dissolve into the environment can also be engraved or printed with names and other special thoughts. Engravings will vary depending on the size of the urn for ashes. Some urns or keepsake urns are small, which limits the capacity for engraving. The following quote is one such example:
“There is a link death cannot sever,
Love and remembrance last forever”

Get religious with your cremation urn and keepsakes

If religion was an important part of the departed's life, scriptural verses and imagery of spiritual significance on the surface of an urn for ashes or urn jewelry can go far to express those sentiments. Recalling a cherished Psalm can unify grieving loved ones in sharing feelings of loss, bringing much needed healing and spiritual perspective. 

What do I engrave on cremation keepsakes?

In addition to the customary name and dates indicating the span of one's life, engraved urn jewelry and cremation keepsakes can reflect the life of those we want to always hold dear. A fingerprint and/or photogenic picture of the deceased can be engraved on the outer surface of a pendant or cremation keepsake, a unique reminder of a life well lived and never to be forgotten.

Making the effort to find the right personalization is deeply satisfying and will always result in a smile or deep close feeling when the memorial vessel or personalized urn is viewed. This is an opportunity for a heartfelt and lasting expression for those we loved, and continue to love.

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.