More Americans choose cremation instead of burial and many end-of-life services are changing as a result. Instead of hosting a visitation, funeral, and graveside service, some families opt for a single ceremony. It’s also common for people to gather together at a later date to scatter their loved one's ashes.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Quick Tips on Finding the Right Words to Say for Scattering Ashes
- Beautiful Quotes for Spreading Ashes
- Poems for Scattering Ashes
- Popular Prayers to Recite While Scattering Ashes
- How to Include Personal Stories in a Scattering Ashes Ceremony
- Example Scripts for Scattering Ashes
Make sure you know the laws for scattering ashes before you meet to scatter your family member's remains. Since you may not have a religious or spiritual leader present during the scattering, you should consider what will be said at the informal ceremony.
Here are some quotes, poems, or ceremonies you may consider using when scattering your loved one's ashes.
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Note: If you're transforming your loved one's ashes into something unique, like a cremation diamond with Eterneva or cremation stones with Parting Stone, you can still use the tips below for any ceremony you hold. For example, you might say a few words when placing your cremation stones in a special location or presenting your cremation diamond to family and friends.
Quick Tips on Finding the Right Words to Say for Scattering Ashes
Perhaps you aren't used to public speaking, and maybe you are concerned about finding the right words to say at such a critical moment. Here are some general tips to consider as you plan out what to say:
- Write out your speech before you arrive at the event. You may think that you’ll be able to wing it and say something profound, heartfelt, and inspiring at the ceremony. Even if you are an accomplished public speaker, write down your words before you arrive. Speaking at a loved one's funeral is different than speaking at a work event. You don't know how emotional you’ll be, so it’s best to be prepared.
- Share specific memories of the deceased. Make sure that the memory of your loved one lives on by talking about him or her. Share specific stories about your loved one's life during the scattering service.
- Consider the deceased and mourners’ faith. Consider the beliefs of your loved one as you choose which text to share at the scattering service. You may be able to share speaking responsibilities with someone who’s more in tune with your loved one's beliefs if you are not comfortable.
- Use some of these quotes, but also speak from the heart. You can find anything on the internet, including a complete text that someone said during a scattering ceremony. It might be best to only look at these websites for inspiration. You may use some of the keywords that speak to you, but at the end of the day, make sure your speech comes from your heart.
- Give others a chance to share their thoughts. Others may want to share their thoughts at the scattering ceremony as well. Let them know that they will have an opportunity to speak before they arrive at the event. This will enable other mourners to plan what they would like to say.
Beautiful Quotes for Spreading Ashes
Here are some quotes to consider reading when you spread the remains of your loved one. Some are faith-driven and others are secular. Make sure to tell your listeners the source of the quote you use.
"Because I have loved life, I shall have no sorrow to die." — Amelia Burr, American poet
Was the person you are honoring gregarious and full of life? This quote could be perfect.
"Even death is not to be feared by one who has lived wisely." — Buddha
Again, this quote is appropriate for the scattering ceremony of someone who lived life with gusto.
"To us, the ashes of our ancestors are sacred. And their resting place is hallowed ground." — Chief Seattle
This quote will remind your listeners of the sanctity of the area where you’re scattering your loved one's ashes. That place is the final resting place of your loved one’s remains. Carefully consider this as you choose a location.
"Lives are like rivers: Eventually they go where they must. Not where we want them to." — Richard Russo, author
You didn't want your loved one to die. Unfortunately, most people have no choice in the matter. Lives are sometimes cut short and it's not fair. Sometimes it’s helpful to accept this fact as you grieve the loss of someone close to you.
"Every man's life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguish one man from another." — Ernest Hemingway, American author
We know that we’re going to die. It's how we spend our lives that give it meaning.
"In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years." — Abraham Lincoln, Sixteenth President of the United States
It's difficult when people die during the prime of their lives. But if your loved one lived life to the fullest, this may lessen the pain you feel.
"Perhaps they are not stars but rather openings in heaven where the love of our lost ones shines down to let us know they are happy." — Eskimo legend
Thinking of our loved ones as stars may not be scientifically accurate, but it sure is comforting. We all want to believe that our loved ones are living a peaceful, happy afterlife.
Poems for Scattering Ashes
Are you looking for a longer text to read at the scattering ceremony? Consider some of these funeral poems.
"Ashes to Ashes"
Most would assume that the phrase "ashes to ashes, dust to dust" came directly from the Bible. Instead, the exact text was inspired by the Bible but written in the Book of Common Prayer. This book was first printed in 1662.
The text reads: "Forasmuch as it hath pleased almighty God of his great mercy to take unto himself the soul of our dear brother here departed, we, therefore, commit his body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall change our vile body, that it may be like unto his glorious body, according to the mighty working, whereby he is able to subdue all things to himself."
"Farewell" by Anne Brontë
This poem begins: "Farewell to thee! But not farewell. To all my fondest thoughts of thee: Within my heart, they still shall dwell; And they shall cheer and comfort me." Brontë tells her readers that her departed loved one lives on in her mind.
"A Psalm of Life" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, American poet
"Lives of great men all remind us we can make our lives sublime, and, departing, leave behind us, footprints on the sands of time."
This short stanza can remind you that even though your loved one died, his or her footprints are left behind.
"She's in the Sun, the Wind, the Rain" by Christy Ann Martine, poet
This poem finishes with this line: "You'll see her in the clouds above, hear her whispered words of love. You'll be together before long. Until then, listen for her song.”
We all have moments when we can feel the presence of someone who has passed before us. This poem is a reminder to pay attention to the signs.
"You've Just Walked on Ahead of Me" by Joyce Grenfell, poet
It’s strong all the time. It hurts to lose those we love. This poem speaks about this sorrow you may be feeling, but at the same time, we are reminded that we will be following our loved ones eventually.
"Let Me Go" by Christina Rossetti, English poet
In this poem, the speaker is the person who has died. She is talking with those she left behind. The poem ends, "When you are lonely and sick at heart, go to the friends we know. Laugh at all the things we used to do. Miss me, but let me go."
"Irish Blessing" by unknown
The author of this traditional Irish blessing text is unknown because the poem is very old. It can be used as you part with a person going on a long journey. It can also be used when that long journey is the afterlife.
"May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face. May the rains fall soft upon your fields. And until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand."
Post-planning tip: If you are the executor for a deceased loved one, handling their unfinished business can be overwhelming without a way to organize your process. We have a post-loss checklist that will help you ensure that your loved one's family, estate, and other affairs are taken care of.
Popular Prayers to Recite While Scattering Ashes
As you plan the scattering ceremony for your loved one, consider the prayers you would like to include in the ceremony. While some feel comfortable offering prayers to God that come from their hearts and minds, others feel better reciting a prayer from a prayer book or scripture.
Keep in mind that some faiths do not encourage cremation as a method of disposition. Others may allow for cremation, but only if the ashes are interred in an appropriate place. As a result, you may struggle to find official prayers to read while scattering ashes.
Here are some prayers that you might consider using for this situation.
The Lord's Prayer
Jesus' prayer, commonly known as "The Lord's Prayer," can be found in Matthew and Luke. Here is one version from the Anglican Church:
“Our Father, which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name;
Thy kingdom come;
Thy will be done
in earth, as it is in heaven:
Give us this day our daily bread;
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive them that trespass against us;
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil;
For thine is the kingdom,
the power, and the glory,
For ever and ever.
Jews and Christians turn to this passage in times of sorrow.
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He causes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul; He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name's sake.
Even as I walk in the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You set a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; You anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Only goodness and mercy pursue me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
Selection from Bhagavad Gita
Hindus recite this when wishing to place their focus on God:
"The sun is your eye during the day, and the moon your eye at night. The wind is your breath, and the fertile brown earth is your heart. By your power, all things are created, and by your power, they are destroyed. Birth and death are in your hands. I tremble with awe and wonder when I contemplate your power."
How to Include Personal Stories in a Scattering Ashes Ceremony
Some families prefer a scattering ceremony instead of a traditional funeral because a scattering ceremony is usually less formal. In addition, because a scattering ceremony typically has a looser structure, it allows people to share memories and personal stories about the deceased.
However, having time for stories can sometimes be problematic if no one wants to talk or too many people are long-winded. Perhaps you already know if the group invited are hesitant speakers or not.
Here are some ideas on how to include a sharing time in your scattering ceremony.
Step 1: Determine if members of the immediate family wish to talk.
Before the ceremony happens, you might ask the immediate family members if they wish to speak and share memories at the ceremony. This will allow them to either write a speech or think about what they want to say.
Please understand that not everyone would be comfortable speaking at such an event. They may be too overcome with emotion to speak. However, they may be more likely to get through it if given a chance to prepare.
If few family members feel that they are able to say something at the scattering ceremony, you might want to reach out to close friends of the deceased.
Step 2: Reach out to close friends to let them know that they will be given the opportunity to share a memory with the group – if they wish.
If you suspect that few family members will speak at the ceremony, reach out to close friends. Again, people may be more likely to speak at an end-of-life service if they have time to prepare their thoughts.
Step 3: Open the floor up to others who might wish to say a few words.
If family and close friends choose not to share much, you might consider giving others in attendance the chance to say a few words. In fact, if you think that the ceremony will be short, you might include the following line in the invitation for the event: “Everyone will be given the opportunity to share a few words about Michael.”
Some people feel comfortable speaking with little preparation and may be happy to share a funny story or poignant moment they had with the deceased.
Step 4: Plan ahead on how to handle awkward situations.
Hopefully, the person leading the ceremony is skilled enough to help those who become overwrought with emotion while sharing memories. Additionally, they may also have a strategy in mind to limit the time your chatty aunt is given to speak.
Example Scripts for Scattering Ashes
There are few sample scripts for scattering ceremonies available online. Additionally, there's a lot to consider when finding the right words to say at your loved one's service. Here is a general outline to help you write out your script for the ceremony.
Introductions and welcome
The officiant introduces themselves and welcomes attendees to the ceremony on behalf of the family. At this time, logistical matters might be addressed, and the officiant might give a brief outline of the event.
Good morning. Thank you for attending this remembrance and farewell to Mary Beth Simmons, beloved daughter, wife, mother, and friend. I am Pastor Susan Peters. I invite you to mute any cell phones at this time and join me in a brief moment of silent reflection. Please take a moment to savor the sounds around us as we prepare for prayer.
A eulogy may have already been given if you chose to have a memorial service in addition to the scattering ceremony. However, you may want to take this opportunity to share a few words about the faith of the deceased.
As you all know, Mary Beth's faith was important to her. She often said that even though she loved worshiping God at church, she felt most connected to God when walking through this pasture. She chose this exact spot for her scattering ceremony, and we are happy to complete her final wishes for her today.
Decide the logistics of the scattering before the event. Some families choose to share the responsibilities and may wish to say a few words when completing the act.
Mary Beth – I'll never forget the first time we met. I caught you laughing at me as I ran into a locked glass door at Edwards Hall. I've never been more thankful for being a klutz.
Prayers and Poems
Consider offering prayers of thanksgiving that you were given the opportunity to know and love the deceased. You might also wish to have a family member or friend share a poem.
Here's a popular funeral poem to consider:
by Helen Lowrie Marshall
I'd like the memory of me
To be a happy one.
I'd like to leave an afterglow
Of smiles when day is done.
I'd like to leave an echo
Whispering softly down the ways,
Of happy times, and laughing times
And bright and sunny days.
I'd like the tears of those who grieve
To dry before the sun
Of happy memories I leave
Behind – when day is done.
As discussed earlier, you may wish to give those in attendance the opportunity to share stories about the deceased. Consider doing this at the end of the ceremony – in case people need to leave with fussy kids.
We want to give you all an opportunity to share a brief thought or memory of Mary Beth. So if you have something to share, please raise your hand, and I will bring the microphone to you.
Once everyone has shared, close the ceremony with a song, prayer, or thanks. You may also need to give further instructions.
Finding the Right Words to Say
As you consider the words to say at the scattering ceremony, you may have second thoughts. Maybe you’d rather keep the ashes of your loved one nearby. In this case, find an appropriate urn for ashes.
If you're looking for something very unique (think a game, their motorcycle, or instrument of choice), you can custom order an urn from a store like Foreverence. You submit a design idea or sketch, then the company designs and 3D prints your urn, so you get a 100% unique container.
Another beautiful option for keeping a loved one's memory alive is a memorial diamond created from ashes. Some companies, like Eterneva, create lab-grown diamonds and allow you to pick from several cuts and colors for your gemstone.
Consider starting your own end-of-life planning, too. During this process, you can make decisions about what will happen to all your belongings and which poems you’d like to have read at your own ceremony.
Read our guide on how to plan a cremation ceremony for more ideas.