Dead people’s ashes cannot be exhumed to make jewellery, a church court has ruled, after a grieving widow wished to extract a teaspoonful of her late husband’s in order to create a ring.
In one of the more bizarre cases heard before the Church of England’s Consistory Court, a widow pleaded with a judge to allow the exhumation of the ashes of her husband, a “good man” who died 16 years ago shortly after the family moved into their “dream home”.
This was in order to use them to create a gemstone “tribute ring” made of ashes mixed with coloured glass crystals as a “memento” for her daughter.
However despite the pleas from the family – none of whom have been identified in court documents -, the Church of England refused permission for the requested exhumation.
The man died an “untimely death” at the age of 38 leaving behind a son of 14 and a daughter of seven. His ashes were buried in a Yorkshire cemetery.
His widow asked the court for consent “to open the casket to take out a teaspoonful of her husband’s ashes and then closing the casket and putting it back”
She said this would enable the carbon from the ashes to be transformed into a gem which could be mounted on a ring for her now 23-year-old daughter who has never come to terms with the death of her father.
In a letter to the court she said that her daughter had asked to have a ring made from her father’s ashes and said : “As her mother, I know this would mean so much to her.”
She added that she was sure that the dead man “would want us to do this for his beloved daughter who was only seven years old when her dad passed.
“She would love to have a memento made from his ashes in memory of her dad. This would make her very happy indeed,” she said.
Commenting on the idea of having ashes of the dead turned into jewellery, Mark Hill QC, Chancellor of the Diocese of Leeds in his role as a judge of the Consistory Court said: “Some may find this practice distasteful.
“Some may think it does not sit easily with Christian teaching on the body, the soul and the hope of resurrection.
“Some may think wearing a burnt fragment of the remains of a loved one to be mawkish, whereas for others a genuine and abiding sense of comfort may be derived from the symbolism and personal connection.”
He continued: “I am satisfied that the petitioner is sincerely motivated in her wish to honour her late husband, a good and decent man, and to try and ease the burden of grief and sadness for her daughter who was aged seven when her father died.
“The hope is that the physical proximity of a tangible part of her late father will serve as an abiding memory of a man who she never really got to know.”
Mr Hill said that he had “the greatest of sympathy” for the family, but added that he did not consider the facts of the case were exceptional enough to “rebut the strong legal and doctrinal presumption against the disturbance of human remains.”
The Consistory Court rarely grants permission for exhumation, with the Church of England decreeing that a final resting place must be just that unless there are exceptional circumstances
“If changing fashions of mourning and the availability of alternative uses for cremated ashes were to justify the routine exhumation of human remains, the finality of Christian burial would be stripped of all its meaning,” he added.
Written by: Gabriella Swerling