Day 37: Interesting alternatives to traditional burials

How do you want to be remembered in death? The end of life is often a taboo topic, something people don’t frequently discuss, except out of necessity.

For many, dealing with death can be an especially troubling time because few are adequately prepared for a loved one’s passing. Losing someone special, particularly if they’re young, is an extremely painful experience to overcome.

However, a growing number of people are finding ways to memorialize life and memories, rather than sorrow. Many are planning their own memorials, some of which are far from traditional.

Do you want to have a religious service and burial or do you plan to be cremated? Not creative enough for your personality? How about having your ashes launched into space on board a rocket?

We spent the morning at Restland Funeral Home, the largest funeral home in Texas. The funeral home’s cemetery recently opened an ossuary and scattering garden. An ossuary is a large container for the co-mingling of cremated remains. There is also a landscaped garden for the literal scattering of cremains.

David and I agreed that in as many interesting things we’ve seen in life, a crematorium was not one of them. It was slightly eerie, yet interesting seeing a crematorium and the ovens used in the processing.

The funeral home also provides consultation on the scattering of remains at sea. A boat can be chartered in California where the deceased’s cremains (cremated remains) are placed into a water-soluble floating container and cast into the ocean. The family will usually say a prayer or memorial statement, before the container dissolves in the water.

A Houston-based company will “blast” a lipstick-sized container of cremains into space for a price comparable to a traditional burial. Recently, the remains of Star Trek’s James Doohan and Astronaut Gordon Cooper were both launched into space.

We also interviewed a mother who had her son’s remains made into a diamond by the Life Gem company. He died in a car crash only days after the birth of his own son. The family wanted a way to carry a part of him everywhere, so they explored this option.

The Illinois-based company uses a small amount of the cremated remains — about the size of a half dollar coin. Carbon is extracted from the cremains and through intense pressure and heat, a rough diamond is created.

The gem stone is then cut and polished and set into any number of jewelry options.

Another company will take remains and turn it into potting soil, so that a family can plant a tree as an everlasting memorial.

One other option, is an eternal reef. Families can have cremated remains placed into an artificial reef in several locations as a way of helping the environment.

As for me, I plan to leave this world the old-fashioned way. I think a memorial service and traditional burial is appropriate for my wishes. I do however, think it is really fascinating that so many options are available to people.

Many of those we interviewed gave some very convincing reasons for desiring an “alternative memorial.” Many said that the deceased had extraordinary, creative personalities and they wanted their memorials to reflect that personality.

The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect the views of the corporation and employees of WFAA-TV, Belo Corp., or Northwestern State University. They are solely the opinion of the author. All content © Copyright 2007 Lane Luckie
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