As the baby boomer generation (of which I am the trailing edge) marches off to the glorious unknown, their survivors are left with their remains. That is a lot of remains. And so an industry has grown to meet the needs of the 80 million who embraced their individuality while alive, so that they can embrace it in death as well.
This is not about the funeral industry which is huge (Walmart is the largest purveyor of coffins and funeral urns in the country), but about the quirky ways people choose to memorialize the dear departed.
You can have your love one processed into a synthetic gemstone – the average human ashes can be refined into graphite, and then turned into approximately 50 one carat gemstones. That is a marvel. My big disappointment here is that Superman is not doing this work. I thought it’d be a fantastic retirement gig for the Man of Steel, but apparently it is done with a heat process that takes three months for a yellow diamond, and up to nine months for a blue diamond.
I find the notion intriguing. I find it less intriguing that there is a movement afoot to “diamondize”, and then sell the gemstones made from the ashes of celebrities. I shit you not. The first one was the Beethoven Diamond, created from Beethoven’s authenticated hair, then auctioned off for $1,000,000. The proceeds going to charity in this instance.
Perhaps it’s the ex-Catholic in me that finds this creepily like selling the relics of saints, and about as reliable (You can buy relics on eBay. No lie.). After all, how do you know whether or not your beautiful synthetic blue diamond was made from the revered Bowie’s remains, or from the leftover ashes of a beloved golden retriever named Lucy?
And it’s not cheap. You could buy a real diamond for what you’re going to pay for those ashes to be processed into a synthetic. Although, a friend of mine did mention that this would allow the surviving spouse to have an engagement ring for their next spouse made from the prior spouse. Creepy or charming? You decide
But that’s not all. Perhaps a gemstone doesn’t appeal. I get that. It wouldn’t be my choice either. If you’re more of a gun aficionado, you can have your loved one’s ashes packed into as many, or as few, bullets as you wish. So you can use them for special occasions. This leaves me a little bewildered. The love of my life is dead, so I’m going to shoot a deer with her ashes. What?
Those who favor this method use the bullets for special occasion shootings, and of course, bullet jewelry. It seems to me disrespectful to use grandma for target practice, so maybe game hunting? But I don’t understand that either. What exactly is a “special occasion” shooting? I’m not sure I want to know.
Less weird to me, but probably more weird to others, is getting a tattoo made with your loved one’s cremains. Finally that “Mom” heart tattoo has real meaning when it’s made with mom’s ashes. But honestly, if you want to have your loved one be part of you, just bake some brownies, and add remains to that. It will be pleasanter, cheaper, and well, some of the ashes might stay with you.
Honestly, the list of things you can do with your loved one’s ashes is pretty much endless, and limited by – it’s not limited at all. If you can think it, someone is happy to do it for a price, with human ashes, or your pet’s ashes, or probably your fireplace ashes if you wanted to pay for that.
There are so many options, I really have to give you a list.
Turn your loved one into pencil lead, then give away pencils with their name, birth and death dates, and maybe a sweet quote, engraved on the pencils. You can keep them in a special memorial pencil box.
Mix them with paint, and have a portrait of your loved one done with their ashes.
Have the ashes inserted into an hourglass, with the caveat that ashes are not the same as sand, and this is not going to be a very functional hourglass, but it does make a certain point.
Music aficionado? Your loved one can be pressed into a vinyl record that will play, complete with cool album portrait cover of your choice. R.I.V., sweetie!
Turn your loved one into a snowflake! There are companies that will send the cremains up into the stratosphere where they will be released so they can return to earth as the nucleus for raindrops, or snowflakes. What could be more natural? Though personally I’m not sure how cool I am with being rained on by cremains. Though it does explain why rain makes my car so filthy.
If the stratosphere just isn’t far out enough, your loved ones can be put into Earth orbit, dropped on the moon, sent into deep space. If this helps your grieving process, and you can afford it, why not? Pricey, but certainly do-able. They even offer tracking so you can follow your loved one on their journey through space.
Honestly, the list is endless, and after awhile begins to read like the inventory of a tacky souvenir shop on Cape Cod. Key chains, wrist bangles, glass ornaments of every kind, pressed ash trays (pardon the pun), fireworks – if you can think it, someone is doing it with human (and pet) remains.
Me, I’m a traditionalist. I scatter ashes, a little at a time, in the places I love. I don’t begrudge anyone how they choose to remember their loved ones. Though I do reserve the right to maybe raise my eyebrows a little.