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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Don’t scatter ashes without inquiring first

Catherine Johnston The Spokesman-Review

Q. After I die, I want my ashes scattered in my favorite vineyard. Is that legal?

A. While some restrictions exist for public lands and waterways, no legal impediment exists for private property, so ask permission. The decision is up to the vineyard owner.

Myles Anderson, co-owner of Walla Walla Vintners in Washington state, told EndNotes he has not had this request. However, he says, “We would honor it if someone wanted to do it. The family could pick a lot, and spread them (ashes) on the deceased’s favorite wine plant. The grapes would probably benefit. We would make sure that when it was done, it was a private experience.”

Anderson says perhaps someone already has spread ashes at Walla Walla Vintners, as “the beautiful vineyard is open to the public when the gate is open.”

Communities often have guidelines regarding scattering human ashes on their controlled public lands, such as city or state parks. People interested in a park scattering should call their local parks department.

If choosing uncontrolled public lands, such as a rural hiking trail, be courteous. You should scatter the ashes away – at least 100 yards – from other hikers in a secluded area so you won’t risk offending other outdoor enthusiasts. You may want to cover or mix the ashes with some loose dirt or flora because human ashes are distinct – gritty and coarse – unlike ashes from a campfire.

When scattering cremated remains at sea, the Environmental Protection Agency requires the ashes be dropped at least three nautical miles from land. Within 30 days, loved ones must submit a report citing location, distance from shore, water depth and vessel name involved in the ritual. Inland water burials require a permit from a state agency.

We hope your favorite viticulturist honors your final wishes. If not, you may have to change your plans – or your wine.

Q: I’ve been asked to speak briefly at the memorial service of a person I had a private falling out with several years ago. What should I do?

A: EndNotes took this question to Mary Anne Ruddis, of Spokane, who lost her husband, daughter and son to cancer within a few years of each other in the 1990s.

Ruddis knows what really matters in the end. The executive director of American Childhood Cancer Organization Inland Northwest said honesty and integrity should be your guide while making this decision.

“If she can transcend this rift, give a eulogy and honor her former friend, she should do it,” Ruddis said. “If the rift is too intense, I think she should decline. If she is forcing herself to say things she doesn’t mean, she is dishonoring herself, her friend and everyone who is there.”

If you decide to speak at the memorial service, you might consider talking, in general terms, about the ups and down of the friendship. Although the deceased’s family might not know about the rift, some people at the memorial service likely do.

“Say, without going into a lot of detail, that there were times that (you) did not see eye-to-eye, and her death is a reminder to all of us we don’t have forever,” Ruddis advised. “There is a limited time to reconcile any differences.”

Then you could speak about the good part of your relationship. “This honors her feelings, and her friend, at the same time,” Ruddis said.

Honest, but tactful, memories shared at memorial services provide teaching moments about the reality of relationships.

“When somebody dies, you want to get up there and make the person into a saint. Very few of us are saints,” Ruddis said. “That’s life. Life is messy.”

Catherine Johnston, a health care professional from Olympia, and Rebecca Nappi, Spokesman-Review features writer, welcome your questions about what to do in times of illness, dying, death and grief. Contact them through their EndNotes blog at
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