How is a container of cremated remains lowered into a grave?
April 19, 2016 1:39 PM   Subscribe

I've been to funerals where a casket was lowered into a grave using some kind of machine – what's the equivalent to this when the remains are cremated and put into a small box or urn? I imagine there's some happy medium between a giant apparatus and just dropping the box into the hole. If it makes a difference I'm interested in particular in how this is done in graves without a vault.
posted by richrad to Grab Bag (11 answers total)
The one I saw was a small-scale version of how caskets are lowered manually: A flat line/sash is looped and used to lower it, then one end is released and the sash is pulled through. Instead of six people lowering, it's just one.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:53 PM on April 19, 2016

I recently attended a funeral of a veteran at a National Cemetery. The deceased had been cremated and the ashes had been placed in an urn. The urn was simply lowered by hand by a person kneeling beside the grave (no vault), which was small and shallow compared to a grave for a coffin. There was no "dropping" -- it was able to be gently placed.
posted by erst at 2:01 PM on April 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Yep, I've seen it kind of like CPB described it, but they used a sort of mesh bag and looped the sash into that. I thought it kind of lessened the formality of the ceremony, since my uncle had crafted this beautiful metal box and then we were basically surrounding it with a potato bag. But maybe that was just this particular location (in rural Illinois, in a plot that held several family members' cremains).

I was also at a funeral last weekend in which cremains were placed into a columbarium inside a church. It was pretty cool to feel that old-fashioned connection to a long-established church, but then again it was a little anticlimactic to see them just take this box and put it on a shelf. But it was still a nice ritual.
posted by St. Hubbins at 2:03 PM on April 19, 2016

I participated in an honor guard for a funeral in high school with an urn; we handed the widow the flag and the box was placed in the grave by hand.

Every other time I've seen ashes they've been scattered (at sea, etc.) or they were placed in an incredibly fancy drawer in a vault.
posted by SMPA at 2:26 PM on April 19, 2016

My Grandmother's creamated remains were buried in a blue silk bag tied shut with gold rope-like stuff, and were placed into the hole (which was maybe 1 foot square and a couple feet deep) just by my Grandfather's hand placing it in there.
posted by brainmouse at 3:09 PM on April 19, 2016

I put the remains in a box handmade by the deceased and placed it in the ground. The mourners tossed handfuls of earth onto the box. Nothing fancy.
posted by Jode at 4:44 PM on April 19, 2016

At Arlington National Cemetery, they have a columbarium, a section of the cemetery just for cremains. Think of walls with top-to-bottom and side-to-side cubbyholes the urns are placed into, then sealed with a vertical marble panel on front with the deceased's dates and other info. The whole thing is arranged around several small pleasant courtyards with benches and plantings --- it's actually a very peaceful place.

When an urn is placed in one of those cubbyholes, it's placed in by hand, (the person who actually does that is the equivalent of the pallbearers at a casket burial) with the appropriate full and formal military ceremonials.
posted by easily confused at 6:04 PM on April 19, 2016

The San Francisco Columbarium has glass-fronted cubbyholes and brass-fronted cubbyholes. It is a very handsome building, very peaceful, and well worth the visit if you are in SF.
When we buried my father's cremains, we just placed the container manually in the hole in the earth. It wasn't very deep.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 7:09 PM on April 19, 2016

My dad's cremains are buried in a natural cemetery. I placed his ashes in a wooden box made by my brother. I dug the hole myself (as mentioned above, cremains burials are in a much smaller hole), and during the ceremony placed the box therein, along with some other mementos of his life & family. People tossed flower petals into the grave, then I shoveled the dirt back in and the stone was placed on top.
posted by cuddles.mcsnuggy at 1:33 PM on April 20, 2016

My stepfather chose a green burial, and so was interred simply wrapped in a linen shroud. His body was placed in the center of a 20' length of 5' wide linen*, then lowered by two men on each side. The funeral director mentioned that they had previously used ropes but without a casket, the body was unevenly supported. The length of the linen sling was dropped into the grave and will biodegrade naturally.

I imagine that a textile sling could be used for an urn or reliquary box pretty easily.

* The linen sling had to be that long because the grave was 6' deep, so 6' * 2 + 3' for the width of his shoulders + 3' on either end so the people lowering it could hold it at a natural height.
posted by workerant at 1:40 PM on April 20, 2016

Thanks for the replies, everyone. For the particular funeral I was asking in advance of we ended up just lowering the box in by hand.
posted by richrad at 4:45 PM on May 21, 2016

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