What to Say When Scattering Ashes: Quotes, Poems & Ceremony Words


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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.

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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.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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