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Celebrities are Cremated - Just Like the Rest of Us!

by J. Malec

The Urn Containing Nikola Tesla’s Ashes’ – Photograph by Martin Lopatka, used under the Creative Commons License.

Celebrities who were cremated

Tabloids often tout that celebrities are just like us -- they live and die in largely the same way as we do. They and their families also face the same end-of-life decisions: cremation vs. burial; what type of cremation urn for ashes is appropriate? what about scattering urns? how best can we memorialize the deceased?

Below are five examples of celebrities who chose cremation and what was done with their ashes.

Albert Einstein (physicist, scientist)

Einstein, best known for developing the theory of relativity, was to be cremated at death and scattered in a river by family. However, it is well known that during the autopsy Einstein’s brain was removed for scientific study without prior obtained permission. Because his brain continued on its own journey after the ash scattering, in a way, the specimen jar could be considered Einstein’s urn.

Sigmund Freud (Austrian neurologist)

Known as the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium, the first to be opened in London and the oldest in Britain. His remains rest with the remains of his wife Martha in the crematorium's Ernest George Columbarium. Their urn is an ancient Greek vessel, a gift from Princess Bonaparte, which rests on a plinth designed by Freud’s son Ernst.

Alfred Hitchcock (film director)

The ‘Master of Suspense’ chose to be cremated and scattered in multiple locations around the world. Apparently, you can still purchase one of several urns used to transport his ashes on Ebay, should you be interested in obtaining a quality urn with an interesting story attached. Ashes not included, sorry Psycho fans!

Janis Joplin (singer)

For many a flower child, Janis defined an era. She died of a heroin overdose at a young age. She had prepared and left her wishes to be cremated at the Pierce Brother Westwood Village Mortuary. She also requested that her ashes be scattered by plane over the Pacific Ocean. Another of her requests was that $2,500 be set aside for a wake at which the Grateful Dead played. 200 invitations read “Drinks are on Pearl.”

Amy Winehouse (singer)

Like Janis, Amy is one of the “27 club,” a collection of otherwise unrelated popular musicians who died tragically at the age of 27. After a private funeral, Amy was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium. Her ashes were scattered with the ashes of her beloved grandmother who had passed 5 years earlier. Amy’s cremation was unusual, as she was Jewish and cremation is traditionally frowned upon.

One thing that must be especially difficult for the families of celebrities is the relentless onslaught of media coverage around celebrity deaths. In Amy Winehouse’s example, publicly abounded about the decision to cremate, which of course is a private matter. Surprisingly just like the rest of us, famous personalities often have very simple wishes for their arrangements, and family comes first in the end.

The decision to cremate indicates additional choices. Selecting an ash container requires choosing between memorial urns to display, keepsake and jewelry urns, or biodegradable and scattering urns. Deciding on how to memorialize the loved one will guide final choices around a memorial service and what urn will become the final resting place.

J. Malec is a visual artist and writer whose work often deals with themes related to loss and healing. She lives in Minneapolis, and spends much of her time practicing permaculture in the city.

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