A few months ago I shared a link to 'Parting Stone', a company that transforms human (or animal) ashes into solidified remains, in a facebook post to a group where I am the Admin. I rarely post about products there, I need to be pretty sure of what is being offered before I share in my curated social media. I first looked into Parting Stone two years ago, and reached out to it's innovators to reassure myself that their handling process, chain of possession, and client care passed muster. They did, and they do, and it has been fun to see the way their idea has taken wing.
From my perspective the critical issue with cremated remains, beyond the high carbon footprint of the process itself, is that unless you are keeping them stored in an urn they are not environmentally inert. Because of the high alkaline and sodium content of cremated remains, our ashes have consequences to water, flora, and fauna wherever they are deposited. And the only product I have seen that directly addresses this environmental concern, essentially holding the high Ph material inert so that it only leaches very slowly in the ecosystem, is Parting Stone.
As an end-of-life navigator, green burial educator, and burial shroud maker, I am well aware of the mixed feelings that accompany any conversation about cremation. Some people have cultural reservations but most concerns are environmental. Cremating a single body releases as much as 570 pounds of carbon into the atmosphere. Cremation may not be a greener choice in most circumstances but (even as aquamation/alkaline hydrolysis becomes more available, and recomposition/human composting gains a foothold) it usually costs significantly less than burial (a lot less) and cremation rates are rising in the US. According to the Cremation Association of North America, cremation rates have nearly doubled over the last 15 years, exceeding 50% of disposition choices in 2019, and projected to rise over 75% by 2035.
I was immediately drawn to Parting Stone the first time I saw them online. In my role as a Funeral Celebrant I have assisted in scattering a fair share of ashes, wind blown and otherwise. Many times I've helped dig into a garden or under a tree, and once measured cremains into a stream deep in the woods with a symbolic silver spoon. Too often the best of plans end with blow back, and there was one time when a boat seemed right only we didn't anticipate the risk of a fishing knife in a raw chop on Penobscot Bay. Some families have drama around divvying up and distributing cremated remains, if this is true in yours then you have my deepest sympathy. Avoiding all of that, I put on a mask and snorkel to release a mason jar full of my father's ashes by opening it underwater and watching his earthly remains swirl and bubble out like the arm of a galaxy, a sparkling cascade of human glitter set loose in the ocean currents. I had just enough time to swim out of the way before the plume reached me.
From a Funeral Celebrant's perspective these stones, hand shaped and kiln fired in a single batch of your loved one's ashes, offer a colorful palette of metaphor and a full spectrum of ceremonial possibility. The big plus for me in theory was that Parting Stone might also provide easy handling options for a mourning family, but until one of my family's chose this route I did not have a chance to see for myself what may be the most significant benefit of Parting Stones. Not a single person in the group I was working with pulled away from touching the stones. This is the only time I have seen every single person in a multigenerational family group feel comfortable handling cremated remains. No one held back, every one understood the user interface of hand and stone, and I did not have to provide a towel or wipes to help them clean up. Disposition is rarely as simple as picking up a stone to place in the earth, to cast into water, or to put in a pocket and take home.
Even for families who would prefer to bury naturally, circumstances sometimes dictate that cremation is the best choice for a loved one's earthly remains. If you find yourself wondering how to handle cremated remains, and would rather receive a lovely box of inert stones (that you can distribute or inter) instead of a container of ashes with super high Ph (that will have unintended consequences), then do consider contacting Parting Stone. Their product is as advertised (the smooth stones had a glow sitting in our palms) and their customer care is excellent. The family I was working with could not have been happier with the results.
In the photos below you will see: Parting Stones in an heirloom bowl placed on top of the box they were delivered in. A cousin sewed small gift bags from a favorite dress of the deceased for anyone who wanted to take one home. The stones arranged on the grass in front of the family headstone. The stones before they were buried under daisies in the family plot.
Notably absent from the proceedings was any anxiety over handling the remains. The grandchildren distributed the stones in the grass for every one to see. Considering and choosing the Parting Stones became a ritual itself as the family stood together at the edge of the circle and each person reached in for the ones that resonated with them. Nicely sized to fit in the palm, there were more than enough to go around (well over 50!) and the sense of plenty made it easy for the family to be generous with one another. And notably present in the moment was the sense that each person knew what to do next. A stone can be held close to the heart before being buried. You can whisper your truth to it and it will carry your blessing into the earth.
If you choose cremation it is worth also considering Parting Stones; for quality, ease of use, and for being more environmentally friendly than salty ashes.