Please sign in to post.

Losing my mom's ashes

Not sure which topic to post this under, but I have a funny (to me, but horrifying to some) story to tell about my mom's ashes and Madrid.
Background: My mom was a lifelong, avid traveler. She'd been to five of seven continents and before she died in 2013, I promised to take some of her ashes to the last two: Africa and Antarctica. Africa was easy, since in 2020, I took a teaching job at a school in Liberia. She came along. (Not sure how i'll do Antarctica, but I'll take suggestions.)
Now we pack a small amount of her ashes (about a half teaspoon), take her everywhere we travel, and have added many places in Europe and Asia to her "travel list". We took a quick trip to Madrid for a week just before COVID, in January of 2020. I usually carried the small amount of ashes in a mini-sized red silk snap purse that she'd used for her travel jewelry. We were planning to leave a sprinkle of her under a tree in the gardens of the Royal Palace after a day-long Gray Line bus tour. Arriving at the gardens later that day, I went into my bag for the little silk purse. Gone. Nowhere to be found. Went back to the bus. Nope. Retraced our steps to every stop since departing the tour bus. Nope. Searched the hotel room, in case I actually had not taken her with us. Nope. So...she ended up somewhere in Madrid, in her little silk pouch, with the small folded cremains certificate. Hope someone found her and did the right thing, putting her in a lovely place. (Imagine their shock when they open it expecting something other than ashes!) Maybe she's in a whole new country by now.
I know she would have laughed at this and seen it as a chance to go where she'd never been before.

Posted by
271 posts

She's not lost. She's just taking a tour separate from the one she started with you.

And yes. I'd love to see the look on the finder's face when they discover what/who they found.

Maybe she'll make it to the other 2 continents.

Is there any contact information with the cremains certificate?

Posted by
131 posts

@khansen, no contact information for me- just her name, date of death, and the funeral home information. Thanks for the positive thoughts.

Posted by
2391 posts

Am pretty sure Frank McCord who wrote Angela's Ashes left his mothers ashes in a bar in NYC but I think.he did get them back.

Posted by
2618 posts

My best friend has agreed to sprinkle a bit of me at the Tower of London near the White Tower, and in the park on Margit sziget in Budapest…two places I have spent happy hours enjoying the ravens & storks. I love the idea that your mom is having an unknown adventure even now!

Posted by
6551 posts

Not sure how i'll do Antarctica, but I'll take suggestions.

You don't. It's illegal to scatter ashes in Antarctica.

Posted by
6447 posts

I'm neurotically constantly checking every time I take a part of Mum's ashes on a day trip with me.
Checking that something like this hasn't happened. I take rather more than the OP with me, in a little airtight tupperware container.

It was strange- Mum had purchased half a dozen of them years earlier, for food storage in the freezer, but had never used them. They are the ideal size for the job.

In 5 weeks time a part of Mum's ashes comes on a multi day trip with me, on quite a complex and fast paced itinerary- the first multi day trip they have been on. Perhaps, reading the responses in this thread, I need to relax a little in this task, and worry a little less.

Posted by
4858 posts

I know she would have laughed at this and seen it as a chance to go where she'd never been before.

I absolutely love your attitude about the whole thing. And what a lovely way to pay tribute to your Mom's passion for travel.

Posted by
11445 posts

I think I might rewrite my post-cremation instructions. Little bits everywhere sounds lovely.

Posted by
1861 posts

I, too, think this is a wonderful idea. My daughter doesn't go overseas much, but there are some spots in the US I'd be happy to visit again after I die: San Diego, Muir Woods, Washington, D.C, the Outer Banks, Minnehaha Falls in MN.....and many more. Maybe I will ask her to at least return to the UK, France & Italy just for me.

Posted by
6447 posts

While not wanting to make a relatively light hearted thread too deep, and knowing that every family is different, I have found the task of scattering my Mum's ashes in multiple places hugely enriching, full of meaning and very helpful in my grief journey.
The locations have been chosen with great care to illustrate her life.
We had not discussed what would happen before Mum slipped dramatically quickly into dementia, and I had not considered it, not least because the Church of England forbids it. She and I had both assumed interment.
But an American friend had done the same for her mother, and for all sorts of reasons too personal to discuss, it just felt right.

Posted by
2459 posts

This is a wonderful post and I love this idea. But Antarctica will not be a possibility for scattering ashes. Antarctica and the subAntarctic islands of South Georgia and the Falklands are very tightly controlled environments. You have to go through a lot of biological controls before even setting foot there.

You are not alone in misplaced ashes. I know a couple whose mom died. The mom had a Cadillac. Her ashes were placed in the trunk. To protect the ashes and her car - the couple moved the Cadillac to their driveway. The Cadillac went missing. At first, the husband came home And assumed his wife took the Cadillac to run errands. Later, the wife came home and assumed the same of her husband. It wasn’t until they were talking that the couple realized the Cadillac was stolen. The couple ran an ad in a local paper, trying to get the ashes back. No luck. This couple had a sense of humor and dealt with the matter better than most.

Posted by
105 posts

I would probably spread the remaining ashes in the ocean and let the currents carry her to far away places, including Antarctica.

Posted by
6447 posts

The OP could go on a vacation to Tierra del Fuego- to Ushuaiha or somewhere like that, then the currents will go down to Antarctica from there.

Maybe there are boat trips into the Beagle Channel which could be chartered.
Or maybe to the Falkland Islands.

Posted by
6 posts

Thank you Anne for this wonderful post. You have given me an idea for my future!

Your mom is now just hanging out with the locals in Spain. Perhaps, a thief looking for jewelry got her.

I thought there were cruises off of Argentina that stopped in Antarctica. The ocean near Antarctica would be a good alternative. Swimming with the whales!

Posted by
198 posts

My husband was so proud to tell everyone he was born in Munich. So last summer, I took about a tablespoon of his ashes to sprinkle there. I went to Marienplatz and saw a large planter in front of Becks, next to the Neues Rathaus, and in the back, out of sight, I sprinkled them in the planter.
It feels good to return him to where he was born, even if it was just a small portion.

Posted by
330 posts

Anne, I’m sending you a hug! My mom loved to travel as well, and when she passed away at 100, I had most of her ashes turned into the most lovely “stones” that resemble gently polished river rocks. We’re taking a few to our favorite beach in California, tucking her into the bluff above, and skipping one into the Pacific. Several more will travel to Northern Ireland in September to her great grandfather’s farm. She would love that. And I agree with others…your story inspires future plans!

Posted by
7654 posts

Just adding, most places do have some regulations regarding the disposal of cremains. In Europe, Germany is the most strict, even transporting them can get you in trouble and "spreading" is only to be done in a cemetery. Many other European countries prohibit the family possessing or keeping ashes in their home, spreading them is generally allowed, but under conditions and as part of a memorial ceremony or coordinated with a funeral home.

I know people think "It's just a bit" and "It does no harm" but respecting other countries laws is a part of responsible travel.

Posted by
4543 posts

Yes please, if you do this be discreet and aware of your surroundings and do just a little bit. As Brylcreem used to say, a little dab'll do ya. I mentioned once that apparently cleaning up cremains is a big part of maintenance at the Disney properties.

Posted by
131 posts

Believe me, I am aware of the problem with people spreading ashes. The amount I leave in any given place is no more than a pinch or two, a "sprinkle".

Posted by
131 posts

Okay, Paul. Whatever you say. I'm guilty of committing an international crime when i put a pinch of ashes in the dirt under a tree in a foreign country. I think I'll pull down this post shortly since you seem to be upset by it.

Posted by
7654 posts

Not upset, but the Germans may have a different opinion, you just need to respect the places you visit.

Posted by
7654 posts

I will add, I talked to my wife about this, and promised I would do the same thing. But once I looked into the various laws and regulations, I realized it would be OK plenty of places we have been, but very much not other places. You just need to be sensitive of local regulations.

Posted by
6447 posts

Anne,
I think it would be unfortunate if you felt pressured to take this thread down.
While this forum is not the place for a theological debate, many of these laws stem from the theology of a certain branch of the Christian Church, and their belief of what happens to the human body after death.
The days are thankfully gone when a particular church could foist it's views onto the rest of us- be that Roman Catholics in parts of Europe, the "wee frees" in the Scottish Islands, or any other Church. Unfortunately part of that historical control mechanism has been in getting certain laws passed.
And I don't just mean around death either.
We each have our own views, and my theology moved very significantly in the last 2 years of my Mom's life. And one of the reasons for that was a huge lack of real human empathy and practical/emotional support from my Church for both Mom and me.- actual Christian support.
I don't even know your faith, or even if you have one. To me that is irrelevant.
I wish I had seen something like this thread 2 years or so ago.
I also think this thread will be useful to others, your approach is so respectful to your Mom, and I get how you are being so sensitive to others.

Posted by
85 posts

I've instructed my family to get little test tubes for my ashes and send/take them to all corners of the earth with friends who travel a lot and with themselves as they explore the world. I want to end up everywhere!

Posted by
1 posts

I also left my brothers ashes in transit, but on Southwest Airlines, in an overhead bin. I've wondered what happened to them ever since.