Bury Me? Not So Fast!
Every time we would drive past a cemetery, my grandfather would point and say, “that place is so popular, people are dying to get in.” Typical grandad joke. But these days, less than half the population is opting for a traditional burial in a cemetery. As of 2017, only about 43 percent of Americans opted for a burial.
Cremations are increasing in popularity, accounting for 50.2 percent of peoples’ post-death choices. The traditional cremation process is very simple. Your body is reduced to ashes by fire.
Another form of cremation calls for a party – The Viking Funeral. During a Viking funeral, the body is embellished with jewels and other mementos and then placed in a longboat and pushed out into the water during sunset . An archer then shoots a flaming arrow to light the boat aflame, thus creating a huge fire on the water for all to see. Remember, this is not necessarily legal, so don’t try it in your local pond. Nevertheless, here is a great primer on all things Viking.
Assuming you do not opt for the Viking Funeral, the question then becomes, what happens to the ashes? There are all kinds of ways we can return our bodies to the biblical ashes and dust, some romantic and some outlandish. Here are just a few of them:
Typically, ashes are placed in an urn and given to the immediate family as a keepsake. Even though they died more than 20 years apart, the ashes of my maternal grandparents were mixed together and each of the grandchildren received a small urn with a portion of them.
Some are even building an urn that replicates the deceased’s head and storing the ashes there. I don’t think I’m ready to have my loved one continue watching me that way for all of eternity, but who am I to judge?
Sometimes the deceased requests that his or her ashes be scattered in a specific location, often a place meaningful to the family – maybe at the ocean or dropped out of a plane. My paternal grandfather’s ashes were scattered across a garden. Believe it or not, one of the most common places that people scatter ashes is at Disney World. That gives a whole new meaning to the Enchanted Forest!
Be aware that there are laws governing where you can scatter ashes – yes to National Parks, but not in National Forests – and yes in the ocean – subject to certain rules and regulations – here is a great summary of those laws. For the most part, spreading ashes on private property is always permitted – provided the owner agrees!
Become a Tree
For those who want to take an entirely new approach to returning to the earth, you can choose a Tree Pod Burial. Although initial iterations of this type of burial involved placing the body in a shroud and then planting it directly into the earth to allow natural decay to occur, more recent programs cremate the body first, and then place the remains in a pod under a tree. In either plan, the tree uses the actively decaying body as part of its ecosystem and as a source of nutrients.
Be a Part of Jewelry
Thanks to the evolution of science, we can now take the cremated remains of a loved one and compress them into a diamond. The remains are first cremated and the carbon is isolated. Once the carbon is separated and purified it is placed into a machine that mimics the Earth’s process of heating and compressing the carbon. After undergoing this process, a new diamond is born! It is then inspected, searching for imperfections, and is cut around those imperfections into a traditional diamond shape.
You can have the ashes placed in a small urn to be worn as a necklace, or a vase or a small sculpture.
Other Objets D’art
Many have started mixing the ashes into memorial orbs – which can be used for paperweights, or other decorative items. You can have them made into a Memorial Sculpture or Memorial Glassware – great for those late night parties! Grandpa always loved his bourbon!
Finally, you can be a forever stone (but I’d be worried that I would toss you in a drawer and then not remember you 5 years later).
Nowadays, there is something for everyone, and it’s great to be able to have something that helps you remember and connect with your loved one, and lets them know that their final resting place will be somewhere they wanted to be.