A few days ago I was asked to conduct an Interment of Ashes ceremony at Callander Old Cemetery. I had already led the cremation service a few weeks before, and the family had then asked if I would go along and say a few words at the interment.
An interment of ashes is where the remains of the deceased person are laid to rest in a burial site. You might also be asked to conduct a “Scattering of Ashes” which is pretty self-explanatory. The ashes will be scattered rather than interred.
When I arrived at the cemetery, the staff had already prepared the area (see photo right) and were waiting for us to show us to the graveside. As always I arrived about 30 minutes before the service was due to begin. This allows me to have a look at the area to decide where I’m going to stand, how I’m going to move and gives me time to get myself set up, including setting up speakers for the music.
When I saw the family arriving, I began playing the music they’d requested (sometimes I will go and have a chat with them first). The family members then gathered around the graveside and we stood silently until the music finished.
I then opened the service, and because we had already had a full funeral service, this part was kept short. I can’t remember the exact words I used because I try not to use notes at an interment (because it’s such a short service, it’s a perfect opportunity just to speak from the heart). But I will usually start by welcoming everyone and saying why we have gathered together.
Example: “Good morning ladies & gentlemen, and a very warm welcome as we come together once more to lay our beloved George in his final resting place.”
I might then refer back to one or two of the things mentioned in the service, or perhaps recite a poem or reading (or a family member might want to do this).
There might also be a ‘Moment of Reflection’ Moment of Silence’ and/or another song played.
When it comes to the part where we are ready to say a final farewell, I will then speak the words of committal.
Example: “George, you were a much-loved husband, father, son, brother and friend. A man with a caring personality and a warm heart. But with your life here on earth now at an end, we commit your body to the ground and your soul to the stars. And forevermore, may you rest gently surrounded by the warm earth and the gentle night. Rest in peace.”
A family member[s] (this can also be done by you or the cemetery staff) will then come forward and place the casket in the grave. At this point, family members may wish to come forward to place flowers (or notes/ letters/ trinkets) on top of the casket. This part of the service should not be rushed, but rather just allow the family whatever time they need.
Once this is complete, the cemetery staff will come forward and place a cover on the grave, and I will join the funeral director and cemetery staff in a bow.
I will then say a few words to bring the service to a close and perhaps play some retiral music.
Please note: There are many variations of the above. It really is completely up to the family as to what is in the service. But you just have to bear in mind that being outdoors leaves you at the mercy of the weather, and if it’s a miserable day, no-one wants to be hanging around for too long, so try to keep it short but meaningful.
However, if you get a nice day, graveside services are among the most beautiful you will ever get to lead.