Funerals have been a part of our history for so long that we’ve come to think of them as always following the same formula. Typically this means set visiting hours for family and friends followed by a memorial service, internment at a cemetery and then, in many cases, a more casual gathering for family and friends at the home of the deceased’s closest relative.
This formulaic approach remains a popular choice for many as there’s a level of comfort in its familiarity. There are those, however, who want something with a bit more character. For these people, the funeral industry has responded with a number of new options for memorials, internments and funeral processions.
Transporting someone from the funeral home to the cemetery has traditionally be done by funeral hearse. Over the years, hearses have evolved from horse drawn carriages which remained well into the age of the car and are still used on occasion. Typically though, hearses are limousine style cars which have been used almost exclusively since the 1920s in order to transport the deceased to the cemetery.
Today, though, more and more people want to make their final arrival one to remember. Niche hearses, including options that replicate race cars, gothic carriages and even Airstreams have become popular. While each offers their own spin on the traditional hearse, they are all essentially variations on the same traditional limo or sedan style hearse.
And that’s where bikers come in. Always happy to set themselves apart from the rest, bikers finally have a choice when it comes to how they want to arrive to their own final destination. Motorcycle hearses use specially designed side cars or trailers in order to transport someone from the funeral home to the cemetery. Some homes even offer special versatile trailer hearses which can be used by any bike with a strong enough towing capacity making it possible for a person to be taken to the cemetery essentially on their very own bike.
For many years, cremation was seen as a more environmentally friendly alternative to traditional burial. But the truth is that the process of cremation releases carbon dioxide and other chemicals into the air because of the high temperature fires which are used to reduce the body to ash and bone.
Resomation is the 21st Century version of cremation. Instead of fire, it uses a combination of potassium hydroxide and heated water to liquefy the bodily tissues, leaving only bone fragments behind. These fragments are pulverized and then given back to the family as remains which can be kept or spread in a way similar to the spreading of ashes.
Cremation isn’t the only funeral tradition getting an environmental makeover. Burials have also been redesigned with green activists in mind. A number of parks have cropped up around the country that feature trees fertilized by the bodies of those who choose to quite literally return to the Earth.
Unembalmed and completely untreated bodies are buried within biodegradable containers – or no container at all – around the park. There are no grave markers allowed and the parks are considered free and public green spaces. Families and friends can use natural markers to find the graves of their loved ones.
Under the Sea
Environmentally friendly options go well beyond the ground. For those with a love for marine life, people can now choose to have their cremated remains incorporated into coral reefs which are then placed under water. These man made reefs then become a vital part of the underwater ecosystem, creating a home for sea urchins, oysters and other marine life.
The Sparkle of Someone’s Eye
Synthetic or man-made diamond were first introduced in the 1950s as an affordable and conflict-free alternative to natural, mined diamonds. This process was built upon in the early 2000s in order to create gemstones from the remains of the recently departed.
The process is similar to the process for any other man-made gemstones. Carbon can be obtained from creamed remains or from hair and additional carbon is added as needed. The end result is a diamond that can vary in weight from .20 carats to 1 full carat. The gemstones can then be set in jewelry just like any other gemstone, making it a memorial loved ones can truly keep with them forever.
Everything Old is New Again
Finally, the newest trend in alternative funerals is also perhaps one of the oldest: Mummification. Mummification is usually thought of only in relation to the great Pharos of Egypt but one company has made it their mission to make mummies mainstream again.
Summum, a Utah based company, focuses on mummification services for both people and animals. People can have their pets mummified for around $6,000 which human mummies usually cost closer to $65,000. Needless to say, with that kind of price tag, the company stresses that pre-need arrangements are strongly encouraged but it still begs the question – what do people do with the mummy once the job is done?
Finding ways to memorialize, remember and say goodbye to people when they die is an issue we will always face. Death is, after all, the only guarantee that comes with life. As times and culture changes so too do the ways we handle death. The new funeral options show that the effects of new technology and innovation reach well beyond life and can change the way we deal with death.