Last Updated on June 7, 2021
What should you say when scattering ashes? What is appropriate or expected? Do you have to say a lot, or anything at all?
Scattering the ashes of a loved one is a momentous occasion. It only happens once – when it’s done, your loved one’s remains are gone forever. So you want to make sure you do it right.
Today, we’re going to look at what to say when scattering ashes. There are plenty of ideas and tips below, so if you’re looking for inspiration – or just want to confirm that what you are planning to do is acceptable – read on!
What to Say When Scattering Ashes
Later we’ll get into specific sayings, quotes, and readings. But for now, we’ll begin by giving you a general idea of the type of things you can say at the scattering ceremony:
- Say Nothing. Have a moment of silence in honor of the departed loved one.
- Say a Prayer. You can pray extemporaneously, ask a pastor or clergy to do it, or use one of the prayers below.
- Share a Favorite Quote. This can be a memorial quote, poem, or Bible verse (see below for ideas) or you can say something that your loved one would always say.
- Give a Eulogy. For a scattering ceremony, you’ll want to keep it brief. Here’s how.
- Open Mic. You won’t have a microphone, obviously, but you can have a time where anyone who wants can say something. If you do this, let people know in advance so they have time to think about what they might want to say.
Tips on What to Say
Keep it simple. You don’t have to say a lot; this is one of those times when less can be more.
Keep it dignified. Of course, it’s perfectly fine to share a funny story or two from their life. Just bear in mind that this is an important occasion, and a time to honor your loved one’s memory.
Write out what you want to say. As you’re thinking about what you might want to say, write down what is most important and meaningful to you. Bring your notes so that you’re sure to remember what you wanted to say. It’s easy to forget something, so it’s best to have it written out, even if you don’t end up reading from your notes.
Consider a group recitation. This is something everyone says, prays, or sings together. As with any of these sayings, it doesn’t have to be long. It could be the first stanza of “Amazing Grace,” or having everyone say “Amen” together. You could do a “repeat after me” quote, like so:
|Your presence we miss,||(Your presence we miss,)|
|Your memory we treasure,||(Your memory we treasure,)|
|Loving you always,||(Loving you always,)|
|Forgetting you never.||(Forgetting you never.)|
Think about before and after the scattering. Most people think about what to say prior to scattering the ashes. The scattering itself will take mere moments – it’s just pouring out a small amount of dust, about the size of a shoe box. So take the time now to think through what you want to say after the scattering is complete.
You (and those who are with you) will appreciate a final quote, prayer, or statement (even a simple “Amen”) that provides closure for the ceremony.
How to Talk About Ashes
Most properly, the term is “remains” or “cremated remains.” Sometimes “cremains,” a combination of the last two words. Most funeral professionals do not consider “ashes” to be the best term when speaking about a loved one’s remains.
However, the general public is much more apt to use and understand what is meant by the word “ashes.” So if you and the family are comfortable using it, then you are welcome to do so.
A Script for What to Say When Scattering Ashes
If you want to keep it simple, here’s a script you can take verbatim or adapt to suit your needs.
Hello, friends and family.
We’re here today to scatter [Name’s] ashes.
But more than that, we’re here remember, mourn, celebrate, and honor a beautiful life.
And we’re here to say goodbye.
We remember the love she had for each and every one of us.
We mourn the loss of her light in our lives.
We celebrate the legacy that she left us.
And we honor her life – which will live on in how she impacted each and every one of us – even as we say goodbye to her mortal remains.
So please, gather around, and we will say farewell.
[At this point, scatter the ashes]
[Optional: Insert a meaningful quote, poem, Scripture, or prayer from below here]
Goodbye, [Name]. We will always love you.by Daniel Szczesniak, US Urns Online
Memorial Quotes for Scattering Ashes
Below, we’ve gathered some of the most famous funeral quotes which are also applicable to a scattering of ashes ceremony.
Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust
Forasmuch as it hath pleased almighty God of his great mercy to take unto himself the soul of our dear brother here departed, we, therefore, commit his body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall change our vile body, that it may be like unto his glorious body, according to the mighty working, whereby he is able to subdue all things to himself.
– Book of Common Prayer, 1662
To live well, to laugh often, to love much, to gain the respect of intelligent people, to win the love of little children.
To fill one’s niche and accomplish one’s task, to leave the world better than one finds it whether by an improved flower, a perfect poem or another life ennobled.
To never lack appreciation of earth’s beauty or fail to express it, to always look for the best in others, to give the best one has.
To make one’s life an inspiration and one’s memory a benediction.
This is success.
– Bessie A. Stanley
Poems for Scattering Ashes
Sometimes, a poem says what mere words cannot. Honor your loved one as you scatter their ashes by choosing a meaningful and appropriate memorial poem.
An Irish Blessing
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face.
May the rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand.
– Unknown; a traditional Irish funeral poem
Miss Me, But Let Me Go
When I come to the end of the road,
And the sun has set for me,
I want no rites in a gloom-filled room –
Why cry for a soul set free?
Miss me a little, but not too long;
And not with your head bowed low.
Remember the love that we once shared:
Miss me, but let me go.
For this is a journey that we all must take
And each must go alone;
It’s all a part of the Master’s plan,
A step on the road to home.
When you are lonely and sick at heart,
Go to the friends we know,
And bury your sorrow in doing good deeds;
Miss me, but let me go.
– Christina Rossetti
Wish You Were Here
May the winds of heaven blow softly
And whisper in your ear
How much I love and miss you
And wish that you were here
No Winter Without a Spring
There is no winter without a spring;
And beyond the dark horizon,
Our hearts will once more sing.
For those who leave us for a while
Have only gone away,
Out of a restless, care-worn world
Into a brighter day.
Alone I Will Not Be
My comfort will come from the sea.
The stillness of calm waves will gently drift by;
I will be as one with the sea.
When the sun sets on the ocean blue,
Remember me as I will always remember you.
As the sun rises… go live life as full as can be.
Apart… you and me… but be at peace, for I am free.
– Captain Chad Theesfeld
Prayers for Scattering Ashes
These prayers are especially appropriate to pray when the ashes are scattered. For more, see our post 10 Biblical Funeral Prayers for a Christian Funeral Service.
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
O Lord, as we fulfill the final wishes of our beloved concerning their remains, help us to remember that you are our strength. In our moment of pain and grief, we choose to lean on you for it is only in you that we can find strength. May your word be a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path in this season. Thank you for strengthening us when we are discouraged and weak. Please give us the courage to face each new day as it comes. We pray this believing in the name of your Son Jesus, Amen.
– Natalie Regoli, Connect US
A Prayer for Scattering Ashes
Father, even as your Son committed his spirit into your hands at the hour of his death, even so we commit these remains to your care. Your word promises that if we are, by faith, united to Christ in his death, we are also united to him in his resurrection. So we say goodbye to [Name], and scatter her ashes into your keeping. One day, at the last trumpet, we shall see her again; sown in corruption, raised in incorruption; sown in weakness, raised in power; no longer bearing the perishable image of the man of dust, but changed, and bearing the imperishable image of the man of heaven. Amen.
– Daniel Szczesniak, US Urns Online
Prayer to Follow in Faith
Lord Jesus Christ, by your death you took away the sting of death: Grant to us your servants so to follow in faith where
you have led the way, that we may at length fall asleep peacefully in you and wake up in your likeness; for your
tender mercies’ sake. Amen.
– Book of Common Prayer
In sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ, we commend to Almighty
God our brother* [Name], and we commit his body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. The Lord bless
him and keep him, the Lord make his face to shine upon him and be gracious to him, the Lord lift up his countenance upon
him and give him peace. Amen.
– Book of Common Prayer
Bible Verses for Scattering Ashes
These Scriptures provide comfort for those who grieve by describing God’s providential care over life and death, and by pointing to the resurrection of Christ as our eternal hope.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
– Psalm 23
I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.
He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.
Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand.
The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.
The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.
The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”
I Corinthians 15:35-57
Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.
This entire passage (all of chapter 15, but especially vv. 35-57) is relevant to life, death, and resurrection. However, the full section also introduces concepts that are not immediately applicable to a funeral or committal service.
For this reason, the minister will often only read shorter selections, including verses 15:35-37, 42-44a; 15:47-49; 15:51-57.
Read the full passage here, which includes the famous lines quoted above and also, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (v. 55)
Read next: 20 Funeral Quotes to Honor a Loved One