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Ashes in the wind; fulfilling last wishes may be best left to the pros

By Rick Montgomery

McClatchy Newspapers


They call it "blow-back" in the trade. Burg's face and hair were dusted by the passing cloud of the deceased.

Had it been her mother's remains, "it could've upset me," she said.

Instead, she smiled at the memory, a lesson in why scattering is sometimes best left to professionals.

A nation trending toward cremation — four out of every 10 Americans say they're planning on it — might wish to ponder the company's trademark line: "Where do you want to be scattered?"

"Legally, if it's your private property, then, yes, you can scatter," said Murtaugh, 44. "If it's public property and uninhabited, the broad rule of thumb is you can scatter, but you may need permission. ...


It was her wish.

Naturally, the KU/MU rivalry extends to scattering.

Last year, 44 visitors actually went through the trouble of getting a permit, which carries the curious caveat that "remains must be scattered in a manner so as to disperse their identity."

In other words, no mounds.


Sometimes the assignments are practical. "I want those ashes out of the house before I move in," said the fiancee of a client who lost a wife many years earlier.

Scattering isn't a full-time job, and Burg and Murtaugh still rely on hospice work to pay their bills.

They also rely on three dozen "members" around the world — typically morticians — who do the legwork in places the founders choose not to travel.

The society's Web site calls it the "Special Service," something for which nobody has yet signed up:

"We'll need a minimum of 10" to make the scattering worthwhile, she said. "But if it happens, I'm suiting up and going to that base camp!"