San Diego ashes
April 21, 2008 2:44 PM   Subscribe

I need to spread the ashes of a deceased relative in San Diego. Does anyone have any suggestions on how this might happen?

My family is getting together on short notice to take care of remaining business in San Diego from a death in the family, one of which is the ashes from the recently deceased. It would be optimal to find a quiet place in nature to say a few words before releasing them back to the earth. I don't have a perfect picture for doing this as it doesn't come up too often in daily life.

I could use some places in San Diego or within an hour or two drive where this would be suitable. We are contemplating a sailboat ride outside the harbor but time and availability may make that option not possible.

Also, how do people handle this in terms of ceremony or behavior? Any ideas or ways that have worked would be helpful.

Personally, I want my ashes packed into a skyrocket and shot into the air with a big kaboom at the end...but that's just me. This ceremony will need to be a little more relaxed than that.

Thanks in advance for your help.
posted by diode to Human Relations (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't have ideas for where to go or what to do with ashes in San Diego, but when my mom died, we took her ashes to the beach where she grew up. (She had always said she wanted her ashes scattered on that beach.) We all went down to the beach early in the morning, around 6:30, right when the sun was coming up (it was August on the east coast) and just kind of said a silent prayer, and then said the Lord's Prayer together (since we didn't really know what else to do) and then I took the first handful of ashes and sort of sprinkled them near the shoreline, so the water could take them away. Everyone else did the same (my grandmother, my mom's brother, my dad, and my brother) and then there were still ashes in the box (a cardboard's that for classy?), so we just gently sprinkled them in the same way. We definitely did NOT ask for permission from the beach owners (it's a private beach) or the department of wildlife or anything, knowing that we would most likely get denied or policed or some such nonsense. That's partially why we did it early; also it was just really pretty at sunrise. Then we went out to breakfast. A quiet, sad breakfast. It was actually really nice. And it's what my mom always wanted. I think I want my ashes to be dumped/scattered/sprinkled in the same way, and even in the same place.

Good luck!
posted by cachondeo45 at 3:07 PM on April 21, 2008

Well, technically, I think it's illegal to just go dump ashes around, even at sea.

But, a friend of mine died a few years ago, and a few people spread his ashes around in Noble Canyon in the Laguna mountains east of San Diego, where we used to mountain biking. I threw my portion off the eastern edge of the mountains into the desert. Anyway, both of those places were important to my friend, and that was a key factor in their selection. It would help if you knew someplace in the area that your friend particularly enjoyed--for me at least, that would be more meaningful.

As far as actual ceremony, there was a standard memorial service a day or two before scattering the ashes, with a wake immediately following. The scattering of the ashes was limited mostly to longtime friends and family. My friend's dad said a few words, and then handed out a number of containers so that a bunch of people would have the opportunity to part with my friend however they wanted.
posted by LionIndex at 3:07 PM on April 21, 2008

My father and uncle put my Grandmother's ashes in a paper bag, put a heavy rock in it, and dropped it off a pier in Orange County. There was no formal ceremony. They got rip-roaring drunk at my dad's house afterward.

Just be careful, as this is not legal, and it is probably not legal to do something similar on any public land.
posted by Brocktoon at 3:13 PM on April 21, 2008

My grandmother's ashes were taken out by boat into the San Diego bay (past the actual harbor) in a boat that was chartered by my family. It was totally legit and handled by a local operator (Neptune Society?) who specialized in this sort of this. We motorted out, had a short ceremony, and poured the ashes into the waves. It was quite lovely.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 3:18 PM on April 21, 2008

it sounds macabre, but really: check the wind before you sprinkle ashes, especially at sea. i know it sounds like an snl gag, but a friend had a horrific experience where the wind blew the askes back onto the entire family.
posted by thinkingwoman at 3:33 PM on April 21, 2008

Seconding avoiding at-sea sprinkling. We have to do that from our submarine from time to time, and gusty winds + ashes + white uniforms seems to never work out that great.
posted by ctmf at 4:27 PM on April 21, 2008

If you're concerned at all about legal stuff, here are a couple things I know.

Technically, you need a permit from the health department to scatter ashes. Also, the specific location of the, um, drop-off is required to be on the death certificate, so you're legally required to get that changed.

I'm not suggesting that the cops are going to handcuff you if you're discovered. But if you're looking to charter a boat, that's stuff you might need to get moving on ahead of time.

Also, I think the Neptune Society only has regularly scheduled trips, and they do it all at one time. So you wouldn't be alone, and you might not have a lot of flexibility when it comes to the scheduling.
posted by mudpuppie at 4:45 PM on April 21, 2008

Personally, I'd do it either at Point Loma (i.e., the Cabrillo) or at Mission San Diego. I have known two people whose ashes are at the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery at Point Loma, and it's a very special place to "visit" them if you ever want to go back. Do watch the wind if you decide to use the Cabrillo grounds. In both places -- Cabrillo or Mission -- you should be able to get away from the main attraction and buildings and release the ashes without attracting undue attention.
posted by Robert Angelo at 4:47 PM on April 21, 2008

Errrrrmmm...I don't know about the Mission. It's basically a Catholic Church with maintained gardens and grounds, and it's not like it's out in the middle of nowhere. It's nice, but the amount of ash that would end up being dumped there would be pretty conspicuous. I don't know how you'd even get in carrying some sort of odd box or urn.
posted by LionIndex at 4:54 PM on April 21, 2008

Here's a guide to funeral stuff published by the CA Cemetery and Funeral Bureau. Info specifically about disposal of 'cremains' is included.
posted by mudpuppie at 4:59 PM on April 21, 2008

just off the top of my head -

beaches/beach areas:
sunset cliffs blvd - in Ocean Beach - south of Point Loma Ave, its all on the beach. from there you can find many great spots (not-so-great pic). if you go to the very south end, it curves to the left, and a block or less in, if you turn to the right, there is a parking lot.

i really love la jolla cove.

nice views:

none of my friends like it much, but i love mt. soledad. very decent view of lots of san diego.

i really think the Cabrillo National Monument (in Point Loma) has wonderful views of san diego, the harbor, and the ocean.

crap, i dunno. SO many nice places in san diego IMO.

most of Balboa Park (just a mile or so north-east of downtown san diego) is really beautiful and full of awesome trees and architecture. it houses the san diego zoo and various museums. lots of grass and really cool trees.

if the deceased really loved san diego, somewhere along the harbor might be nice. shelter island (in point loma), harbor island, and downtown at Broadway and Harbor drive all offer good views, maybe great.

Julian is maybe an hours drive from san diego and is a small touristy mountain town.

i could go on, but maybe ill stop for now...

(seriously, if you need help finding any of these places or have any questions, you can certainly mefimail me if you like.)

disclaimer: i dont know anything about laws regarding distributing ashes in public places. from what people are saying above, sounds like its illegal.
posted by gcat at 5:20 PM on April 21, 2008

(sorry about all the spacing - i meant to condese that a little more before posting - plus i wish i could firgure out that blasted make-the-text-small trick!)
posted by gcat at 5:23 PM on April 21, 2008

Errrrrmmm...I don't know about the Mission

You're right. What I was thinking of was the Presidio, which has a park around it.
posted by Robert Angelo at 6:46 PM on April 21, 2008

Thanks for all the suggestions. It seems to me that laws about ashes are more about taboos than anything to do with the ashes themselves. The cremation oven works at 1400 degrees or some such. Absolutely sterile would be an understatement.

Regardless, the last thing you would want to experience during this would be feeling nervous or like there was a potential for harassment or getting someone upset, so places that are more removed or a little secluded are probably better. I definitely want to avoid getting people's religious or territorial feelings stirred up.

This has been very helpful.
posted by D-ten at 8:46 PM on April 21, 2008

California State Health and Safety Code Section:

7116. Cremated remains may be scattered in areas where no local
prohibition exists, provided that the cremated remains are not
distinguishable to the public, are not in a container, and that the
person who has control over disposition of the cremated remains has
obtained written permission of the property owner or governing agency
to scatter on the property. A state or local agency may adopt an
ordinance, regulation, or policy, as appropriate, authorizing,
consistent with this section, or specifically prohibiting, the
scattering of cremated human remains on lands under the agency's
jurisdiction. The scattering of the cremated remains of more than
one person in one location pursuant to this section shall not create
a cemetery pursuant to Section 7003 or any other provision of law.

Unfortunately, the code continues with Section:

7117. (a) Cremated remains may be taken by boat from any harbor in
this state, or by air, and scattered at sea. Cremated remains shall
be removed from their container before the remains are scattered at
(b) Any person who scatters at sea, either from a boat or from the
air, any human cremated remains shall, file with the local registrar
of births and deaths in the county nearest the point where the
remains were scattered, a verified statement containing the name of
the deceased person, the time and place of death, the place at which
the cremated remains were scattered, and any other information that
the local registrar of births and deaths may require. The first copy
of the endorsed permit shall be filed with the local registrar of
births and deaths within 10 days of disposition. The third copy
shall be returned to the office of issuance.
(c) For purposes of this section, the phrase "at sea" includes the
inland navigable waters of this state, exclusive of lakes and
streams, provided that no such scattering may take place within 500
yards of the shoreline. Nothing in this section shall be construed
to allow the scattering of cremated human remains from a bridge or
(d) Notwithstanding any other provision of this code, the cremated
remains of a deceased person may be scattered at sea as provided in
this section and Section 103060.

This would make it appear that it's easier to scatter on land in CA than it is to scatter in water... at least if you're concerned with the letter of the law. You'll note that the required statement is ill-defined and the entire scattering at sea statute is next to unenforceable. Also, if you wanted to, you could just sail beyond CA's waters (which, I believe, end at the 3 mile limit). You wouldn't be subject to CA law there.
posted by Vavuzi at 10:10 PM on April 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

What I was thinking of was the Presidio, which has a park around it.

That's actually a pretty good suggestion--there are a lot of secluded little corners in that park where you could spread ashes around inconspicuously.

Another good area may be Mission Trails Regional Park, which is out at the eastern edge of the city of San Diego, near La Mesa, El Cajon, and Santee. I think I've seen evidence of someone being scattered on top of Cowles Mountain (there was a rock painted with the words "in memory...etc.", but a 1.5 mile, 1000' elevation gain hike might be a bit much for you. There's a lot of other places in the park, though. Maybe out north of the old mission dam in Oak Creek Canyon or something.
posted by LionIndex at 7:37 AM on April 22, 2008

Actually, D-ten, I believe the law runs more along the lines of a general "no dumping" on public land policy, as opposed to any type of taboo (unless you consider littering/dumping to be taboo).
posted by Brocktoon at 12:47 PM on April 23, 2008

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