“I wish to be cremated. One tenth of my ashes shall be given to my agent, as written in our contract.”
— Groucho Marx
Someone in your family chose to be cremated after they died and you now have their ashes. It raises the inevitable question.
What do you do with them now?
Some people purchase a wooden box, metal urn or some other container to hold their love one’s ashes in, which they keep in a special place in their home. Or you can have the ashes (in a cineary urn) interred in a columbarium at a cemetery.
Another option is scattering the ashes at a place special to the deceased, perhaps a lake or mountaintop. Some cemeteries have “scatter gardens” for that purpose. Afterward, the loved one’s name is engraved on a memorial tablet in the garden. Maybe you’d prefer to scatter the ashes at sea, a popular choice.
But what if you really want to do things differently? The possibilities are many but here are a handful to think about.
Like Sands Through The Hourglass
Long ago, I watched NBC’s Days of Our Lives (I quit when Marlena supposedly became possessed by the Devil). The show always starts with long-time cast member McDonald Carey intoning, “Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.” So when I found out you can have cremation ashes placed in an hourglass, I was intrigued.
California-based In the Light Urns has been providing hourglasses and other items like jewelry (even rosaries) to put cremation ashes in since 2001. Their hourglasses enable you to put a small portion of ashes in it so you can keep them your home (or wherever you choose). The deceased’s name and birth/death dates are engraved on it.
They even suggest how to incorporate putting the ashes into the hourglass during a special ceremony remembering the deceased. The cost for an hourglass is $399.95.
Maybe you want to truly make your loved one’s ashes a part of you. You can go much further than tattooing “Mother” on your bicep by having a tiny amount of ashes added to the tattoo ink used. “Ashes are essentially carbon and carbon is the main ingredient in black ink,” said Trish Rodgers, then artist/manager of Toronto’s Body of Art tattoo parlor, in a 2013 article.
While the process has been around for close to 30 years, it’s not widely done and some tattoo artists won’t do it. Some health officials question the safety of it because a foreign substance is being introduced into the body. But several people who’ve gotten a “Morbid Tattoo” (as one American academic called it) have said they suffered no ill affects in the years after they had it done.
Portrait of a Life
Perhaps you like the artistic notion of a tattoo but prefer a less invasive (and physically permanent) approach. Missouri artist Adam Brown uses cremains sent to him by relatives and mixes them with paint pigment to create a “lasting memory” composition.
In a recent ABC News piece, he said “Having ashes in an urn on a mantle somewhere is a good way to constantly remind yourself that person died, but when you use them in an artwork it’s a good way to remember someone lived,”
Sending cremains via the U.S. Postal Service is legal, Brown said. The ashes are mixed in with paints, craft glues and resins to incorporate into the design of a memorial portrait, landscape or abstract piece (depending on the deceased’s favorite colors and interests).
“Out of respect, I still wear gloves when handling the ashes. Whatever is left over, I am careful to return,” Brown said. “I only need about four to six ounces, depending on the canvas.”
The paintings range in size and price from $300 to $700, depending on the use of color.
The Rockets’ Red Glare
Want to send your loved one off with a bang like late gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson? You can have cremation ashes made into fireworks for a spectacular show family and friends will never forget. British company Heavens Above Fireworks can arrange the display for you, or you can order your own rockets for self-firing kits, which come with instructions on how to incorporate ashes into the rockets.
Detailed tips on how to create interesting displays are included. There’s a Youtube of video with an example of one of their shows.
Prices vary according to how grand and how lengthy you want the show to be, but it can cost from around $125 for a kit into the thousands of dollars for a lengthy fireworks show.
A few companies here in America will do it, too, but Heavens Above has one of the most detailed websites I’ve seen.
A Diamond is Forever
A diamond can be your best friend (not just a girl’s), if you want. Illinois-based LifeGem will turn your loved one’s ashes into an actual diamond.
According to their website, “LifeGem diamonds are molecularly identical to natural diamonds found at any high-end jeweler. They have the exact same brilliance, fire, luster, and hardness (the hardest substance known) as diamonds from the earth.”
Basically, you send them a small portion of your loved one’s cremation ashes (or even a lock of their hair) and they take it from there. Or you can work with one of their certified funeral home/mortuary partners, they have several (including one in Atlanta). LifeGem can even create a diamond out of your pet’s ashes if you wish.
LifeGem offers a long list of carat sizes, cuts and colors so prices vary widely. The smallest LifeGem diamonds (the red .10 – .19 carat) are just under $3,000 while the largest ones (1.5 carat or larger) can run you $19,000 and higher.
According to their website, they expect to be creating diamonds of up to 3.0 carats in the very near future.
What About You?
As you can see, if you’re not content to put your loved one’s ashes in an urn on the mantle, there are countless other options. Too many to talk about in just one post. But these can get you started.
Maybe the process will get you thinking about your own funeral plans. What do you want done with your ashes if you choose cremation?
cb glover said:
Great article – I shared it on my FB page. Great to see the different things one can do and if there’s any Irish diaspora out there check out http://www.celtic-ashes.com
Thank you! I do like the availability of jewelry that you can store a loved one’s ashes in. I like your page a lot!
Paul Hayes said:
Shipment of pyrotechnics internationally can be complex to say the least, even if possible to the country in question, and Heaven’s Above is a UK company, which is great if you are in the UK, not so much if you are in the USA. Another option is one I can facilitate. I know of a US licensed pyrotechnics company that will evenly distribute someone’s cremains into approximately 25 to 35 shells, and perform a 3 minute (minimum length) fireworks display where the fireworks are of a scale and scope on the same level as municipalities shoot off for 4th of July displays. Maximum length is determined by preference and budget.
I was not able to find much on American firms doing this so I relied heavily on the U.K. site. Have you had many clients ask for it?