Can I scatter remains in the lake?
As I talk with hospices and families, there are many people who want to make sure they are legally scattering their loved one’s remains. And of course, this also includes questions about parks, backyards, gardens, football fields and the ocean. I’ve even had someone ask if they could scatter remains at the zoo.
Where is scattering allowed?
In Texas, to follow the law, remains should be scattered over uninhabited public land, at sea or over private property ONLY with the owner’s permission. So this technically rules out public lakes. If it’s a lake on private property, you would need the consent of the owner. In general, we typically hear that places are more than willing to provide permission when asked.
Don’t forget about the container
This may seem obvious but in Texas you have to remove the remains from the container, unless it’s biodegradable.
There are great biodegradable urns specifically designed for scattering. Most funeral homes and cremation service providers offer a variety of urns and one of my personal favorites is a Scattering Urn designed for use on cruise ships (although it would work in any body of water). The concept is you toss the urn overboard as the ship is moving along and then you watch as the “urn pillow” peacefully floats away. For some families, this approach is much more pleasant than actually seeing the ashes being disbursed.
Yes, this really happened
aCremation had an incident where the family decided to (illegally) toss remains in a local, public lake. Unfortunately, since they were apparently unaware it was illegal, they also were unaware they needed to remove the remains from the temporary urn we provided. Sadly, the remains were washed ashore and found by a small child. His mother returned them to us. Needless to say, it was very embarrassing for the family and extremely awkward for us when we called to tell them the news.
How to decide where to scatter
Talk with your family and close friends first. Now you know the law, you can come up with ideas that will honor your loved one and leave you confident you did the right thing. Hospice and hospital chaplains typically offer wonderful ideas on ways to incorporate scatterings into personalized memorial services. You can also speak to your funeral home or cremation service provider for ideas and suggestions. Many churches and cemeteries are now providing scattering gardens. There also are companies that offer scattering experiences at sea or in locations such as Israel. The internet is a great place to start when doing research.
What Texas Law tells us
The guidelines regarding scattering are found within the Texas Funeral Service Commission’s Administrative Code (section 716). There are two statutes that address it.
Sec. 716.302.(e) A person may dispose of cremated remains only:
(1) in a crypt, niche, grave, or scattering area of a dedicated cemetery;
(2) by scattering the remains over uninhabited public land, sea, or other public waterways in accordance with Section 716.304; or
(3) on private property as directed by the authorizing agent with the written consent of the property owner in accordance with Section 716.304.
Sec. 716.304. A person may scatter cremated remains over uninhabited public land, over a public waterway or sea, or on the private property of a consenting owner. Unless the container is biodegradable, the cremated remains must be removed from the container before being scattered.
Let me start by saying I focus on the human side of cremation services and only speak for the laws pertaining to people, not pets. And, I’m not a lawyer. However I review the Texas Funeral Service Commission’s codes to ensure aCremation is meeting (and hopefully exceeding) the Commissions requirements.