More often than not people want their remains cremated and ashes spread somewhere rather than be buried in a cemetery. They worry about the money I think, which is unfortunate as they cannot take it with them, and you know, maybe the family needs something more than a body of water to look at to remember the departed. Usually that body of water is Puget Sound or an alpine lake, but sometimes at some lookout or other special place like the Grand Canyon.
Unfortunately much of this is just a whimsical notion of a family standing around and tipping the urn over and having the remains flow out on a breath of wind dramatically returning the departed to the earth.
Instead what happens is some of the ash floats away, but most of it sort of comes out in a lump. The bone is not always completely incinerated and once it hits the water tends to remain cohesive for far too long.
Then there is the entire question of whether this violates an environmental law somewhere. I have always presumed it does, but have yet to have any agency levy a fine for this sort of spill in Puget Sound. In fact a member of my staff reports advising a Washington State Ferry employee of the intention to distribute the ashes from the boat, and finding the captain stopped the ferry mid-transit to allow for the event.
I wouldn’t count on this to be the norm.
Still I wonder how many people wish they had a headstone to visit when missing the departed. Somehow the Sound is just too public, to ambiguous, and feeds my sense of existentialist crisis.