EPISODE 14 — Ashes to Ashes Just Gathering Dust

**Dedicated to all of the souls of the departed, in funeral homes across the globe, whose cremated remains rest in urns on the shelves, and for reasons unknown are left unclaimed, never taken home.**


“Ode to a Tiny Urn”

  by Colleen S. Thompson


Oh precious baby, sitting here all alone,

Why didn’t they come to take you home?

They left you here on this shelf,

In an urn, years ago, all by yourself.



Their sorrow for you was so immense,

The heartbreaking loss was too intense;

The “why” and the “how” just made no sense.


The tragedy created a terrible rift,

The blame, the guilt; they began to drift.

They argued and fought, an order was sought;

If one couldn’t have you, and the other could not,

Then no one could have the urn of the tot.


An unfinished war that death had wrought,

The battles waged had been for naught-

Time had faded from memory and thought,

This urn of a baby that time forgot.

©2013, C.S. Thompson.

12 Responses to “EPISODE 14 — Ashes to Ashes Just Gathering Dust”

  1. So beautifully written, and yet so sad. When my mother was cremated, one of my older cousins (her godchild and flower girl) refused to come to the wake/funeral because ‘there was no body to see’. This cousin never visited Mom while she was sick, so why was it necessary to see a body when it was too late? People are strange.
    Thanks for enlightening us on the dilemma of unclaimed ashes. I had no idea.


    • Thank you so much for the compliment on my very own poem. I appreciate your thoughtful comments, very much. It is rather odd, that a cousin who never took the time to visit your mother while she was alive, should expect to have seen her body while it lay in state. Far be it from me to judg or even attempt a guess, for death does have a very strange effect on some people. That particular case, which the poem was about, was so sad. Imagine people fighting over a baby’s ashes! But when it was all said and done, the ashes were never picked up. They sat on a shelf for years. I have long since left that place of employment, and I wonder right this minute if they were ever taken home. If not, that tiny urn with the baby would be 15 years old or older! It is a most unfortunate thing. Another thing people are often unaware of during these tough economic times: bodies are also piling up in county morgues, because families cannot afford to take them to a funeral home for final disposition (cremation or burial). In the Los Angeles County Coroner’s office, the county morgue, it became such a burden that they had to bring in extra refrigeration units to be able to accommodate the excess a few years ago.


  2. That is such a heart-wrenching poem. Ashes are such a difficult thing to deal with – my husband’s are still in my wardrobe. Can’t imagine why anyone would leave ashes in a funeral home, but then, grief does strange things to the psyche. XX


    • Yes, there are literally hundreds and thousands of cremated remains in the U.S. alone left behind in funeral homes. It had gotten so bad that Funeral Directors lobbied for updated laws that would relieve them of the burden of liability if they were to scatter the remains after so many years’ time passed. Even so, lots of directors worry that the instant that they dispose of them some family member will walk in the door inquiring about them. I composed that poem with a true-to-life story about a couple who had lost their young infant to SIDS, in mind. They were beside themselves as most parents who lose a child are. The baby’s death was so hard for them; their marriage fell apart. No one came back to claim the baby’s urn when it was over. I remember seeing the tiny urn on a shelf for a couple of years afterward; I am unsure if it was ever picked up. Such a pity.
      As to your own difficulty of your husband’s ashes, have you considered putting them in a niche, in a columbarium at a nearby cemetery? It’s like a crypt, only much smaller. But then again, you could place a clause in your last will and testament to ask that the urn be placed into your casket with you, if you go with traditional burial..or you could have the 2 urns (yours and his) placed in a double-niche space. Cemeteries preserve for our families a place to go to pay our respects, a solid location, that generations have for the future. Of course, there is no rule saying that you will need to decide to do anything with his ashes…that is left strictly up to you and your own personal preference.


    • Have you read my post called “The Quiet Hour” by chance? It isn’t sad, I promise. It’s the story about a widow who really didn’t quite know how or when to take her husband back home (in urn), a true story. We helped her to reach the resolution very compassionately. I’ll never forget it.


      • Hi CJ – thanks for the wonderful reply and for posting so compassionately on my blog. Sorry I’ve only just seen this – hadn’t realised you could get notifications when your comment had been replied to! I will have a read of The Quiet Hour now. You have really given me food for thought regarding options for ashes. I think I would like to be with him, ultimately. Thank you again, this is a great blog. X


  3. My son Brady’s ashes sit on the mantle of his sisters house. Three years down the road and still cannot face spreading them at his favorite camping spot in Minnesota.


    • Awww. So sorry. But at least they are in possession of his family; that is all that really matters. You will do it when the time feels right.
      Thank you for reading my post.


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