Some pick a quiet place in the country, others a spot out at sea and some people have even had their remains blasted into space.
But it seems hard to believe that anyone would pick a vase at a charity shop as their final resting place.
Yet after years of sifting through tattered books, dusty ornaments and clothes, volunteers at Arthritis Research Campaign in Bonnyrigg were stunned when an unassuming vase turned out to contain human ashes.
Staff were sorting through a box of items brought into the shop on Tuesday last week when they made the discovery.
Vice-chairwoman of the store, Helen Hope, 85, said: “This is definitely the most unusual thing we have ever had handed in to us. I would hope the ashes will be returned to the family somehow.
“Who knows how this has happened – maybe a family has just lifted the vase while clearing out a house and not realised the ashes were inside.
“We kept them for about a week so the person who handed them in had time to realise what had happened.
“It’s illegal to do anything with them, so I went over to a nearby undertaker and she came over and said that they were human ashes.”
Staff said there was nothing else in the box to identify who the items belonged to.
Attempts are now under way to trace the person who made the macabre donation, now in the care of Barclays Funeral Services.
Chairwoman Lena Skilbeck, left, who has worked at the ARC shop for 17 years, said: “When we took it out, some spilled on the ﬂoor. When I saw the ashes, I knew what they were.
“I told the other girls in the shop but they didn’t believe me – they thought I was joking.”
Funeral service arranger Arlene Newbigging said there were guidelines on dispersing ashes. She said: “We’re holding on to them for now in the hope that the person who handed them in might realise there were ashes inside.”
If you know who the ashes belong to, call Barclays Funeral Services on 0131-654 9226.
No hope of help from dna
DISCOVERING who the ashes belonged will be impossible unless someone comes forward.
While staff at the funeral directors have been able to ascertain that the ashes are from the remains of a person, there is no way to discover any more about them. Any hope of a DNA record is lost because of the extreme heat produced in the cremation process, which destroys any traces of DNA.
Some can remain in bones or teeth, but these are typically ground-up after cremation.