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  • Parting Stones: A Fascinating Alternative to Scattering Ashes

 May 4

by Karen Purze

Before my father died, we had a short conversation about whether he wanted to be buried or cremated. A very short conversation. He asked to be cremated, I think because he couldn’t convince my mother to choose a burial. I’m not completely sure why but my mother was adamant about cremation. When I reminded my dad he didn’t have to make the same choice as my mom, he looked at me like I’d just said the dumbest thing.

“But I want to be with your mother,” he said simply. No further discussion required. (Well, we had a few other discussions.)

The thing is, he didn’t specify what he wanted us to actually do with the ashes. So we didn’t. For the last five years, “Bob-in-a-Box” (as we affectionately called the dark blue rectangular urn which held my father’s ashes) has been with my mom. And while he had pride of placement in the living room, the blue box didn’t inspire emotional connection. 

When my mother died in February, we had to decide pretty quickly what to do with her possessions, including my father’s ashes. They ended up in my brother’s garage while we sorted out my mom’s arrangements. 

When my oldest brother talked about getting the family together to scatter the ashes, I was forced to admit how much I didn’t like the idea. I just knew they’d end up in my eyes, or up my nose. I know some people find peace in the idea of 'ashes to ashes, dust to dust' and being scattered in a beautiful or personally meaningful place but my parents didn't express these preferences.   

Besides, I knew there were other options. I’ve been following trends in end-of-life planning trends for a while and a lot has changed even in the last five years. But as fascinated as I am by the idea, creating a diamond from the cremains didn’t seem like a fit for us. Nor did space flight. Or paperweights (though there are beautiful options.) 

The crematory gave us another option: to solidify the remains into purified “stones”. Parting Stone, a company in New Mexico, worked with scientists to invent a new type of ceramic made from ashes. The results look like smooth white river stones. 

My brothers weren't immediately convinced to try it but none had really strong alternative ideas (and no strong objections.) We all knew what would happen if we didn't make a decision so we agreed to have the parting stones made. 

Parting Stone Solidified Remains

Once we said yes, the remains went straight from the crematory to Parting Stone for processing. Two months later, we have them back and they’re beautiful. They have a presence. And there are enough to share with relatives or bring to places that were meaningful to my parents. 

Best of all, Parting Stone was able to mix my father’s ashes with my mom’s.

He’s with my mother, like he wanted.

About the author

Karen Purze is the author of Life In Motion: A Guide for Gathering Life’s Vital Details, a workbook to help people get their affairs in order. She is currently working on a memoir about her caregiving experience. Sign up for the Life in Motion Guide newsletter to be the first to hear more!

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