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Social media helps Maine mother scatter her son’s ashes worldwide |

Social media helps Maine mother scatter her son’s ashes worldwide

Posted on: 9:33 am, December 26, 2013, by CNN

By Ray Sanchez

(CNN) — For more than three years, Hallie Twomey has struggled with the suicide of her 20-year-old son, C.J. She searched his belongings for a note with a clue of what tormented him. She sought counseling and attended support groups. Nothing helped, she said.

Now, a plea initially to Facebook friends throughout the United States to help C.J. “see the mountains that he never got to climb, see the vast oceans that he would have loved, see tropical beaches and lands far and away” by scattering his ashes has turned into an international effort. Strangers from India to Jamaica are spreading his ashes in tribute to the adventurous young man. A separate Facebook page called “Scattering CJ” has more than 4,000 likes.

“How do you say thank you for that?” Twomey asked in an interview with CNN. “It’s been so much and so amazing but I’d give it all back if I could have C.J. It doesn’t go past me that it’s Christmas, and holidays are so hard for us. I just wish I had him and none of this.”

Still, the outpouring of support since her “Scattering CJ” page went up November 11 has been a source of comfort. On Facebook, the pictures and videos chronicle the places: From the Grand Canyon to the Caribbean, from Australia to Morocco, C.J.’s ashes have been spread.

“Quite frankly, I spent the first two weeks doing nothing but crying,” Twomey, of Auburn, Maine, said. “I just wasn’t prepared for what people were sharing and how somebody who has absolutely no connection to me could be affected.”

Along with the ashes, Twomey sends a note and a small photo of C.J. in a Boston Red Sox T-shirt. His ashes have even been scattered at Fenway Park, home of his favorite team. His mother asks the recipient to think about her son and the people he helped through organ donation. She also asks that in their thoughts, they remind him that “Mom and Dad love him, and that Mom is sorry.”

Many of those scattering the ashes have also been affected by suicide or have outlived their children, she said.

“I’m so touched,” she said. “I’ve lost all faith in pretty much anything since C.J. died. I don’t pray anymore. I’m just not spiritual. I think this was such an effort for me to put my faith — not to be dramatic — in mankind. That’s been wonderful.”

For three and half years, Twomey said, she has regretted the argument she had with her son moments before he stormed out of their home and shot himself in his car.

“C.J. and I fought terribly literally two seconds before he put a gun to his head and my last words to him were not nice,” she said. “I didn’t tell him I loved him. I didn’t hug him.”

Twomey said C.J. had been upset about not making an Air Force special forces team. After being honorably discharged, he returned home.

“He seemed OK,” she said. “I didn’t see any major life changes or severe depression.”

More than 150 packets, each containing a small portion of ashes, have gone out so far, with 300 other people offering to extend C.J.’s journey. She has spent nearly $600 on postage, Twomey said.

“My biggest fear was that C.J. would be forgotten and every time somebody writes a comment or offers to take him on this journey, he’s being thought of,” she said. “That’s so powerful.”

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N.Y. rules pet cemeteries can bury human ashes

N.Y. rules pet cemeteries can bury human ashes

AP9:17 a.m. EDT September 15, 2013

ALBANY, New York (AP) — New regulations will allow New York animal lovers to spend eternity with their pets.

The Daily News reports that officials have finalized rules allowing pet cemeteries to accept the cremated remains of humans.

The cemeteries can bury pet owners’ ashes as long as they do not charge a fee for it and don’t advertise human burial services.

New York’s Division of Cemeteries put a halt to human burials at pet cemeteries in 2011 after an Associated Press story about the practice. It later relaxed the ban on a limited basis and began working on permanent rules.

Ed Martin, owner of the 117-year-old Hartsdale Pet Cemetery in Westchester County, says he gets five or six requests a year from humans who want to have their ashes buried with their pets.

Filed under pets cemetery human remains cremians ashes death dying

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Cremation: The New American Way of Death - LightBox

Cremation: The New American Way of Death

Lars Tunbjörk—Agence Vu for TIME
A dead body ready for cremation has just been inserted into an eco-friendly Resomator machine. Instead of flames, this stainless steel chamber owned by Bradshaw Funeral and Cremation Services uses a combination of water, potassium hydroxide and heat to break down bodies into peptides, soaps, salts and sugars.

Swedish photographer Lars Tunbjörk has documented frenzied consumerism, the soul-deadening effects of office life and the strange theatrics of U.S. politics, always displaying a sense of humor and a grasp of the absurd that would not be out of place in a George Saunders short story. For our feature on the increasing popularity of cremation around the country, TIME sent Tunbjörk deep into the American heartland to chronicle the goings-on at three separate crematories.

For decades, burial has been by far the most common form of disposition in the United States. Most Americans never gave it a second thought: their grandparents were buried; their great-grandparents were buried—it just made sense that they’d get buried, too, in the family plot, beside their closest relatives.

(Click here to read TIME’s special report on cremation and find out why our changing attitude toward this final rite of passage says everything about the way we live now.)

But today we’re a far different society than we were just a few decades ago. Within the next few years it’s projected that, for the first time, more Americans will get cremated than buried.

Much of the recent rise of cremation’s popularity can be credited to the Great Recession. Cremations can cost as little as a quarter as much as traditional burials. But it’s not just the price tag that makes cremation a popular alternative.

For one, we’re a much more mobile society today. We don’t buy family plots the way we used to because more of us get an education, start a family, get a job and retire far from our birthplaces. When it comes time to find a final resting place, transporting an urn is much easier than dealing with a casket.

Historically, the U.S. has been a majority Christian nation, and Christianity favors burial for a number of reasons. But Americans are becoming increasingly secular and many of us now identify as atheist, agnostic or, even if we consider ourselves religious, aren’t affiliated with a particular faith. That separation from a religion with ties to traditional burial has led to more Americans exploring other options of disposition.

Cremation has also appealed to those looking for a more eco-friendly solution than burial, which involves placing a body filled with embalming fluids on a plot of land that will need to be maintained in perpetuity. And while flame-based cremation is a more environmentally sensitive solution than traditional burial, a new breed of eco-friendly cremations is just starting to become popular. “Green cremations,” which use a mixture of water and potassium hydroxide, are available in a handful of states and are outpacing flame-based cremations in the areas where they’re offered.

The practice of cremation will in all likelihood only grow as we become more mobile, secular and eco-conscious as a society. In fact, in the not too distant future, burial might well be seen as a peculiar option in light of the eminently reasonable, less expensive and environmentally sound method now so widely available—and increasingly embraced.

Click here to read TIME’s special report on cremation and find out why our changing attitude toward this final rite of passage says everything about the way we live now.

Lars Tunbjörk is a photographer based in Stockholm. He previously photographed the 2012 Iowa Caucuses for TIME

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