Q. My brother-in-law wants to be cremated after he dies and have his ashes shot into space. I laugh when he mentions it, but he’s serious. Do people really do this?
You’d be surprised. The man who invented Pringles potato chips wanted his ashes buried in a Pringles can. Ashes can be scattered in space—or in the great blue yonder from airplanes and balloons—and even in fireworks.
Some people prefer a body of water, as in burial at sea. You can charter a yacht big enough to hold up to a few hundred attendees to witness the ceremony. Or no one has to attend at all. For as little as $150, ashes can be scattered in the ocean without any bereaved present. Another option is incorporating ashes in a memorial reef. At one reef in Florida, ashes are mixed in cement that is placed in a choice of molds. A boat carries the mold to the reef, where it becomes part of the reef structure. The bereaved can attend the ceremony or not. And of course those who prefer simplicity can scatter ashes in a local pond. Years ago, a relative of mine chose Brooklyn’s Prospect Park Lake.
These choices appeal to some people preplanning their own funerals or to grieving family members. A space shot or sprinkling ashes in water can be a way of dealing with the concept of death and may be viewed as far less painful than a funeral and burial. Such alternatives are often a lot cheaper, too, and may capture the essence of the person, such as his or her sense of humor or deep interest. The ocean may seem like an ideal final resting place for a fisherman, swimmer or diver, Navy veteran, or beach lover.
Yet another possibility is “funeral jewelry.” For example, ashes can be placed in a locket. There are even diamonds made of ashes, although they’re pricey. The diamonds alone (not including settings) can range from $2000 to $20,000 or more. Although some consider the idea of funeral jewelry offensive, others find it healing and comforting, a way to stay connected to the deceased. Both funeral jewelry and shared urns, which are smaller than the usual urns, offer portability in our mobile society where members of scattered families may not be able to visit a fixed burial site.
If you have a question for Florence, please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Florence Isaacs is the author of several books on etiquette, including My Deepest Sympathies: Meaningful Sentiments for Condolence Notes a.... She writes two advice blogs for Legacy.com: Sincere Condolences and Widow in the World, a new blog for bereaved spouses and partners.
Image via Flickr Creative Commons / NASA