If you’re thinking about keeping your loved one’s cremated ashes in your home, chances are you’ve questioned how long they’ll last and if they’ll ever expire. And if you haven’t thought about that, then we’re sorry (well, kinda) that we’ve now planted that seed in your mind.
The good news is that we have good news for you. Read on to learn everything you need to know about ashes and their ‘best before’ date.
What are ashes?
When something (anything, really) is destroyed by fire, ashes remain. This is the same for a human body; some choose to be cremated after they die, leaving their family and friends with ashes that can be housed in an urn and kept on display in their home.
The ashes look similar to flakes, dust or sand you’d find in a fireplace, and they’re typically grey or brown (or a combination of both) in colour.
Let’s chat science
Biology and chemistry not your best subjects? Don’t worry, we’ll explain the science behind ashes and their longevity in a way that’s super easy to understand.
Here we go.
When a body is cremated, it’s exposed to extreme heat, allowing the body to break down in a matter of hours (instead of years, like if it were to be buried). The only part of the body that doesn’t properly break down though, are bones, hence why ashes remain! They’re the bones… turned into a dust-like substance. Creepy, but cool.
If only the bones are left, what does that mean for the expiration date of my loved one’s ashes?
Put simply, it means that your loved one’s ashes will last forever (or at least for our entire lifetime). Yep, they’ll never expire, start to smell, or need to be thrown out or scattered in the ocean (unless you want to do that, that is).
Scientists have actually found cremated remains from centuries ago – so they truly do hang around and retain their same quality for a very long time.
However, it’s definitely worth noting that if you scatter ashes in the ocean or bury them, their lifespan can change – especially because they’ll disperse when mixed with dirt or water.
This means the best way to ensure the longevity of your loved ones ashes is to store them in an urn within a home, or in a columbarium which is designed to protect ashes and urns from the elements.
Fun facts about human ashes
- Our diet can be detected in our ashes post-cremation! For example, if you’re a vegan, or vegetarian, scientists can work this out based on the minerals and metals that are present in the bones within your ashes.
- No two cremated remains are the same – which makes sense, if you read the point above.
- Bones contain our DNA, and DNA has survived for around 1 million years. Does this mean our ashes can last for 1 million years? Maybe. Luckily we won’t be around to find that out, though.
Turns out, ashes aren’t anything like yoghurt. They can last for a long, long, long time – which means cremation can be a great way to keep your loved one close to you after they pass, and can ensure they live on in a physical form for your entire lifetime and (possibly) the lifetime of future generations.