Alternative Funerals: Thinking Outside the Box

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Alternative Funerals: Thinking Outside the BoxDeath isn't cheap: According to recent studies, the average cost of a traditional funeral is almost $8,000. And unlike weddings -- the other big-ticket, life-changing event that most people go through -- funerals often arrive suddenly, potentially devastating the bank accounts of one's survivors.

In America, internment usually comes down to a choice between burial and cremation, which many see as a cheaper, more convenient option. Both choices have their pluses and minuses: Traditional burial is expensive and environmentally destructive; on the other hand, it provides loved ones with an opportunity to say goodbye and leaves behind a permanent place where friends and family can visit. On the other hand, cremation is convenient and inexpensive, but a standard scattering of ashes can leave the bereaved feeling bereft, robbed of the opportunity to leave -- and revisit -- their loved one.

Recently, however, some companies have developed burial options that combine the benefits of cremation with the permanence of traditional burial at a fraction of its cost.

Ocean Burials

One of the most romantic forms of internment, burial at sea, can be especially evocative for Navy veterans. And, with prices for sprinkling ashes at sea starting at $100, it can also be extremely affordable. Many companies use biodegradable containers and old-fashioned burial shrouds, reducing the environmental impact. What's more, by giving the bereaved the GPS coordinates for their loved one, many at-sea burial companies make it possible for return visits.

While even the basic burial at sea is environmentally responsible, there are some ocean burial options that actually help improve the environment. For example, Eternal Reefs, a Georgia-based company, combines the ashes of the deceased with cement to create a concrete reef ball. This huge, porous ball is then lowered into the ocean, where various aquatic creatures can make their homes on its rough surface. Loved ones can take part in the reef ball construction, and multiple family members can be buried inside a single reef ball. The price for internment starts at $2,995, but larger reef balls can accommodate up to four family members. To make it easier for loved ones to visit, the reef balls have built-in GPS transmitters and plaques commemorating the inhabitants.

Get Shot into Space

For the explorer in your family, what could be better than being shot into space? Celestis offers its own version of eternity: For relatively small fees starting at $695, they will place up to fourteen ounces of your cremated remains into a rocket -- along with those of a lot of other people. The basic service sends you into space for only two minutes and forty seconds before you come hurtling back to Earth, but other options will let your remains travel to the moon -- or even to the stars -- for eternity. This last option, which starts at $12,500, was chosen by Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry and his wife Majel Barrett; their launch is planned for 2012.

Get Turned into Jewelry

While space is an exciting option, some families like to keep their deceased members a little closer. If you plan to stay with your loved ones for eternity, you might consider becoming a Lifegem. The Illinois-based company will take carbon from your hair or cremated remains and, using a proprietary process, compress it into a diamond. Sizes range between 0.2 and 1.5 carats and cost between $2,490 and $24,999. If you don't care for the standard clear diamond color, Lifegem also offers jewels in blue, red, yellow, or green.

While a single jewel is certainly impressive, Lifegem also appreciates the value of accessorizing: If you buy two or more diamonds, they offer a discount. They can also make gems out of pets or multiple family members. Ultimately, this may be the most cost-effective internment method available: After all, while most funerals leave you with a family plot, Lifegem can leave you with a tennis bracelet.


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socioeconomist1

I'm having my ashes sprinkled over my beloved Grandmother's grave by the wife or one of the kids.... We already got about 20 people buried in that cemetary. Just pick a relative and etch '(your name) is here' on the tombstone

April 25 2011 at 12:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
socioeconomist1

I can afford to die...

April 25 2011 at 11:57 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to socioeconomist1's comment
socioeconomist1

I mean... I CAN'T afford to die

April 25 2011 at 11:58 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
ge944

Since a body only exists to carry the brain around when someone dies their body should be mined for useful parts and then the body turned into fertilizer or something else useful. From personal experience people spend a ton of money on burials and then after a while never ever go to the cemetary again.

April 25 2011 at 10:50 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
poopsquirtss

Mama, I love you...but to spend money on you for a funeral is out of the question. After all you cooked and cleaned for me and took care of me, but I'm going to burn you and toss your ashes in the ocean or in the forest like I'm dumping garbage....because spending a dime on you is a waste...I can spend it on my wh ore wife. You don't deserve a funeral

April 24 2011 at 10:04 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
tyrebitre

So. in order to avoid an expensive $8,000 funeral, spend $24,000 (plus cost of cremation) being made into an artificial gem stone with a value of several hundred dollars ? Or spend $12,000 being sent into space ? Or spend $700 for an eternity in "space" which lasts less than 3 minutes ? Or spend $100 ( and up ) to dump ashes in the ocean BUT you get the GPS settings because everyone KNOWS that the water stays in the same place ( $100 ONLY if you ignore the cost of cremation again ). Other than the cremation option, you would be better off just paying the $8K and everyone would know where you are buried.

April 24 2011 at 1:37 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
rossjocelyny

This sounds like the plan for me!

April 23 2011 at 9:24 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
jo

The price of a burial is going up and up. Land is in short supply. This equals that cremation is the right way to go. It does seem morbid to go in and talk to a funeral home about your options and costs but you will be enlightened. My sister passed away almost three years ago. She and I had agreed about 18 years ago that we would be cremated, so she was cremated. Her ashes were put in a nice urn and urn placed in a small vault and then into her ground spot. This took up about 18 inches of ground space. One thing to keep in mind about scattering ashes is that some states/counties have restrictions about doing this. Check ahead of time about any restrictions.

April 23 2011 at 3:48 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
svvalkyrie

To protest the high price of gasoline, NO ONE is to buy from EXXON. A one day shut down can't work but if we all avoid one company, just watch what happens. Thanks, remember we're not Lybia or Syria so we'll get no support from Washington.

April 23 2011 at 7:31 AM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to svvalkyrie's comment
polncorect

A much more effective protest would be to vote out all members of Congress who oppose development of natural resources that exist in the US, i.e. oil, natural gas, etc.

April 23 2011 at 7:28 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
KerryC

_eye-roll_You're posting this proven failure of an idea to the wrong place. You should know that boycotting Exxon/Mobil will do nothing. Every few months someone tries to start a "don't buy gas on ________ (fill in the date)" & it goes nowhere. If more Americans would write to their government representatives & used public transportation more often, it would make a bigger impact. However, this is NOT the place to discuss this. What you'd done is considered as SPAM-ing & rude.

April 23 2011 at 7:46 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to KerryC's comment
tyrebitre

Agreed that the "don't buy gas on __________" is stupid and ineffective. However, writing your representative ( especially if they are conservatives ) about anything such as curtailing large corporations, protection of the environment, or any form of conservation is roughly about as effective as trying to teach hamsters to ride 10-speed bicycles. As for using public transportation : we have to HAVE it before we can use it.

April 24 2011 at 1:43 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down
pbihomes

i told my wife tto not tell anyone I died and just put me in the freezer so she can still collect my SS checks.

April 22 2011 at 7:56 AM Report abuse +9 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to pbihomes's comment
jo

But tell her to make sure you're dead before she puts you in the freezer!

April 23 2011 at 3:49 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
danceshorses

Is it possible to be sold to Alpo to be used as dog food? Be a nice little profit for the family and some canine would get a nice repast.

April 22 2011 at 1:11 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to danceshorses's comment
polncorect

ROFLMAO! Good one!

April 23 2011 at 7:29 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply