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Cremation Imagination

by Jerri Haaven

imaginative cremation ceremonies

Last year I attended the funeral of my uncle. During the planning of their dad’s service, my cousins exchanged ideas on how to remember him in a unique way after he was cremated. To my family’s delight when we entered the chapel for his service, on the table in the front of the room was my uncle’s wooden toolbox. The toolbox now contained his ashes. It was so fitting to see that this old toolbox he carried around everywhere and was so well known for, was now his final resting place. 

Recently Andrew Haines, a World War II veteran, made news for his unusual burial at sea request. He had spent the previous 10 years crafting a scaled version of a Norwegian Viking ship that would be used for his sea burial. The Coast Guard agreed to bring the two-foot Norske style ship that contained Haines’ ashes aboard one of their vessels, and then set it adrift. The Norske ship was lit on fire with a torch as requested - much to the pleasure of Haines’ family, and granting a dying wish.

A friend of mine shared with me the story of a friend’s mother who had passed away. The family took a recorded telephone message of their mom, and affixed the recording to the cremation urn. When the urn’s lid was opened, they heard their mom’s voice saying, “Hello Susan? It’s mom. Is anybody there?”  

These three real-life stories illustrate the varied, and sometimes humorous or unique ways, in which the ashes of a loved one may be kept or dispersed. Of course, there are the more conventional cremation urns that are suitable for display or burial - in addition to keepsake urns, or even urns to be used for scattering of one’s ashes. For anyone who loves nature, a great consideration is to use a biodegradable urn so that one’s ashes become part of the earth – or a tree – or the sea!

But for those people who may be a bit “unconventional,” the opportunities are nearly endless for what you can do – all it takes is a little imagination. Do you like space? Consider being launched into orbit. Celestis – a space burial company will send a portion of anyone's ashes into the final frontier for a fee. Or, become a part of an underwater sanctuary. Eternal Reefs takes a portion of your ashes, mixes them with concrete and then sets your ashes in the water where you become a new habitat for marine life as a reef.

My dad loved the 4th of July holiday. When I was growing up he’d wake up at the crack of dawn, open all of the windows and play John Phillip Sousa’s Stars and Stripes Forever, turning up the volume as loud as he could. Not only did it wake us - but it woke the entire neighborhood, too! If only we had known about Angels-Flight when he passed away. This company provides the opportunity to use your ashes in a fireworks display. Oh, how he would have loved going out with a bang.

Yep, all you need is a little imagination.


Jerri Haaven is a freelance writer, and a certified Grief Recovery Specialist and Celebrant. When caring for her dad, who suffered from dementia and COPD, Jerri struggled with the negative side effects of his illness. She developed positive outlets to express herself and recover from her loss. Today as a certified Grief Recovery Specialist and Celebrant, she uses her skills to help people who are in the midst of their own personal story of grief and loss.