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vixey
09-09-2008, 08:49 PM
I'm writing a story with a humorous bent about spilling an urn of someone's ashes. For those of you who've seen a person's ashes, would the ashes be dusty like wood ash or would they be gritty like sand?

Soccer Mom
09-09-2008, 08:55 PM
Well. My experience is limited, but my son just had to look so I peeked in an urn with him. It was gritty and the bits were larger than I thought. Not dusty. Didn't look gross at all. For some reason this pleased him immensely.

vixey
09-09-2008, 08:58 PM
Thanks, Soccer Mom.

Another thought, I've heard tiny pieces of bone could be among the ashes. True?

Soccer Mom
09-09-2008, 09:03 PM
Yup, this mostly seemed to be bone. It was a little larger than sand texture, more like kitty litter.

vixey
09-09-2008, 09:05 PM
Kitty litter - thanks for the visual! That helps alot!

*off to change cloud of dust to spray of grit*

Keyan
09-09-2008, 10:11 PM
I think it depends on the temperature at which the body is cremated.

What I've seen is sort of greasy ashes and bits of bone, the whole a lot more lumpy than I expected. No fine ashes like woodash. (Electric furnace.)

ETA: And, I learned from a quick google, what they do with it after. The ones I saw were unprocessed, but apparently in the US they are further processed to improve the texture.

http://www.funeralassistant.com/consumerinfo/Cremation.htm#Crem8

Mike Martyn
09-09-2008, 10:48 PM
After the body is cremated, they run the remains through a grinder.

We scattered my parents ashes by the ocean. They were greyish with bits of grit but mostly fine dust like talcum powder which blew away in the light breeze.

vixey
09-09-2008, 10:53 PM
Thanks. I wondered if there would be any dusty like residue.

Thanks, everyone!

vixey
09-09-2008, 10:58 PM
Thank you all for the info. My father-in-law was cremated last May, but I couldn't ask my mother-in-law this question. And the chapter I'm writing is really on the funny side - everything gets swept up and put away with little harm done.

I really appreciate it.

Tsu Dho Nimh
09-10-2008, 01:39 AM
And, they are surprisingly heavy - heavier than you are mentally ready for - so your character could mis-judge the weight and drop or spill the remains. Grey-white, gritty, reminded me of low-quality sea-salt

Williebee
09-10-2008, 01:42 AM
They do something now where they take some of the greyish dust and blow it into glass creations...so that there's a swirl of the fine dust blown decoratively throughout the glass ornament.

I can't decide if that sounds somehow "mystical" or just creepy.

vixey
09-10-2008, 02:09 AM
Sad fact: A friend's husband died in a plane crash a few years ago. All they found of him was his finger. She carries those ashes in a small metal vial on a necklace.

vixey
09-10-2008, 02:18 AM
That's beautiful!

ideagirl
09-10-2008, 07:48 PM
I'm writing a story with a humorous bent about spilling an urn of someone's ashes. For those of you who've seen a person's ashes, would the ashes be dusty like wood ash or would they be gritty like sand?

Gritty, and light grey. And not everything disintegrates: you might find bits of melted gold from gold teeth, or other melted (but often still recognizable) bits of metal from other medical things the person had in their body.

vixey
09-10-2008, 07:58 PM
As I understand it certain medical appliances (pacemaker, for one) and orthotics would be removed. I doubt fillings would be.

Mike Martyn
09-10-2008, 09:16 PM
As I understand it certain medical appliances (pacemaker, for one) and orthotics would be removed. I doubt fillings would be.

Yes. In additoin to grinding, the also run the remains through some sort of sieve. My mother had an artifical hip. Being titanium, it would still have been in one piece after the cremation so the sieve obviously caught it.

Mike Martyn
09-10-2008, 09:21 PM
And, they are surprisingly heavy - heavier than you are mentally ready for - so your character could mis-judge the weight and drop or spill the remains. Grey-white, gritty, reminded me of low-quality sea-salt

The weight? That depends. My father weighed about 160 and yes, his urn was surprisingly heavy. My mother had withered down to about 90 pounds before her death and so her urn was very light. Same size urn though.

Before we scattered their ashes I had to drive to my sister's house. I should have simply put the urns in the car's trunk but somehow I couldn't. They sat in the back seat. It was surreal.

vixey
09-10-2008, 09:26 PM
And, they are surprisingly heavy - heavier than you are mentally ready for - so your character could mis-judge the weight and drop or spill the remains. Grey-white, gritty, reminded me of low-quality sea-salt

Wow! I'd forgotten you mentioned the weight TDN. That might be significant in my story. (A cat gets loose in a church sanctuary and knocks them off a pedestal.) Thanks for pointing it out, Mike. I'd expect this character (55-ish male) to weigh at least 160.

jennifer75
09-10-2008, 09:29 PM
I can't decide if that sounds somehow "mystical" or just creepy.

what's creepy is the talk the funeral home has with you before they cremate your loved one. The questions... and also that Bob from down the street may have a little left over in the oven and may mix in with your granny. And you have to be ok with that.

Sorry, I guess that's a different research thread to be had. ;)

P.H.Delarran
09-10-2008, 09:37 PM
another interesting thing about ashes when spreading them in water is that they don't float lightly on the water like you would expect. they sorta just dense up in one spot and begin to sink. the water turns dark and non-transparant. one must stir the water to get 'em moving. and there are an unexpected and startling number of bone fragments. those sink immediately, of course.
I wouldn't describe them as sandy though, more like heavy flour. a little denser than bread flour, but not grainy like corn meal, more like corn flour.