11 Weird Ways to Avoid Ending Up in an Urn

(Updated October 2016)

Jason Walsh wasn’t 40 yet when he started wondering what he wanted done with his body after he died. Having tried to sprinkle his grandfather’s ashes in the ocean, only to get a face full of them, he decided to try something different. Like, how about living forever in the form of a 12-inch vinyl record pressed with your ashes?

Walsh isn’t the only one who figured there had to be something better than the traditional urn or sprinkling of ashes. Today, you can choose to live on — or vanish altogether — in any number of ways. Spaceflight, anyone?

Turn Ashes into a Tattoo

When Barbara Peterson lost her husband of 40 years to cancer, she chose to keep his ashes under her skin; a local tattoo parlor agreed to create a blue flower surrounded by swirls on Peterson’s right hand in his memory. Super trendy right now, memorial tattoos using ashes are offered by tattoo artists who aren’t troubled by the macabre and don’t care that half the ashes get thrown out with the ink. It’s not an easy process: The ashes have to be baked in order to sterilize them, then fine-ground. Plus, as this eHow article points out, feedback can be negative.

Here’s a young woman who tattooed herself with her mother’s ashes:

Price: Depends on the tattoo artist

Where: Ask around at local tattoo parlors

More info: Let us Google that for you…

Turn Ashes into Vinyl

Would you like your survivors to have the pleasure of listening to their needles scratch on vinyl that contains your remains? Nominate a friend or family member to deliver your ashes to a record pressing facility in London, and pick music — or record a final message — for the 24-minute soundtrack. The British company that offers the service, Vinyly, presses 30 copies of each memorial album and offers optional additional services, including backing tracks for your goodbye words (punk? reggae?) or a “bespoke” soundtrack co-produced by you, and original cover artwork – your portrait painted by an artist whose work hangs in London’s National Portrait Gallery or by a street artist. For a price, Vinyly will even distribute the album to record stores.


Tagline: “Live on from beyond the groove.”

Price: Approximately $4,600 for 30 copies of a 12-inch record; a package that includes music, cover art and distribution can run as high as $15,000.

Where: And Vinyly

Turn Ashes into a Tree

There’s something poetic about the idea of becoming part of a growing being — or in hashtag talk, #LifeAfterLife. The award-winning Bios Urn is a biodegradable container for your ashes that also contains a soil mix and the seed of a tree. You can choose from a selection of tree seeds (including ginko so no-one forgets you), or you can provide your own tree, bush or flower seed. Your loved ones “plant” the urn, and your ashes help to nourish the tree as it grows — just as long as they keep it watered.

In late 2016, Bio plans to launch its new Bios Incube — a high tech add-on that tracks the tree’s vital signs and sends the data to an app, and also provides water to the urn when it’s needed.


Tagline: The world’s first incubator, designed for #LIFEAFTERLIFE

Price: For the Bios Urn, $145 covers it all.

Turn Ashes into Fireworks

The man who founded Angels Flight was kidding around some 20 years ago when he told a friend he wanted to be packed in a firework and exploded when he was gone (Nick Drobnis was working with fireworks in an amusement park at the time). Then he started attending funerals and thought, There has to be a better way. Today, several companies are in the business of packing fireworks with the ashes of loved ones and shooting them skyward in a memorial display. You get to choose the spot (at the beach, lakeside, off a yacht) and the company takes care of the rest – including musical accompaniment or a full service. Once the display’s over, all that’s left is the images.

One budding videographer shot this record of a friend’s ceremonial fireworks display:

Tagline: “A happier way to say goodbye”

Price: At Angels Flight, which conducts events in California, prices start at $4,250 for a basic beach service package.

Where: Google Cremation Fireworks to find companies nearest to you.

Turn Ashes into a Diamond

Only a small amount of a person’s ashes are needed to make memorial jewelry, which turns carbon into diamonds though a lab process that uses high temperatures, a diamond seed and ashes. It’s simple: Pick your preferred diamond cut, color and setting; send the ashes in the mail; wait about 70 days for the diamond to be incubated; receive a sparkly piece of jewelry — anything from a ring or earrings to cufflinks and pendants — made with a loved one’s remains.

diamond ring

Tagline: “Because Love Lives On”

Price: From $2,500-$12,999 depending on carat size; family plans available!

Where: By mail: a couple of choices are DNA2 Diamonds  and LifeGem

Turn Your Ashes into Coral Reef

A pair of former college roommates came up with Eternal Reefs when the father-in-law of one was sick and said he wanted to be where the action was — in a reef, with the rhythm of the sea around him — rather in a field with a bunch of dead people. The friends, both divers, had already started rehabilitating deteriorating coral reefs with manmade reef balls; all they had to do was mix the ashes into the concrete and embed a plaque in the ball. The idea made sense to them: Memorial reefs are the environmentally correct choice — they’re sustainable and contribute to the future of marine habitats.


Price: Approximately $2,500 for a simple memorialization service to $7,000 for a large reef ball and up to four remains.

Where: Depending on the company, memorial reefs can be placed along the coast from Florida to New Jersey and Texas, as well as Chesapeake Bay.

More info: Eternal Reefs, Ashes on the Sea

Send Ashes into Outer Space

Who knew going to space could be so affordable — and put you in such good company? Timothy Leary’s cremated remains, along with those of “Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry and several others, were launched into space on the 1997 inaugural memorial spaceflight of Celestis, the first company to offer the service. Today, your ashes can be sent into Earth orbit, onto the lunar surface or into deep space; or you can choose to just take the ride and have your ashes parachuted back to earth. How long will you be up there? Anywhere from 10 to 140 years, according to Celestis.


Tagline: “…From the stars we are born, to the stars we will return…”

Price: Starting at $995 for a space flight with return to Earth and up to $12,500 for a launch into deep space.

Where: Launches are in various parts of the USA. See for details

And Lest We Forget…

Turn ashes into “art”: Art In Ashes will mix some of your or your loved one’s ashes into paint to create a memorial artwork.

Turn ashes into ammo: Holy Smoke will fill rifle cartridges and shotgun shells with your ashes — cheaper than a burial, the company claims.

Turn ashes into a suncatcher:Art From Ashes offers a range of glass suncatchers. “The cremated ash is subtly present in the center core.”

Turn ashes into glass marbles: Solstice Glass will hand blow free-form glass marbles containing some ashes; marbles can be displayed or carried in a pocket pouch.



7 responses to “11 Weird Ways to Avoid Ending Up in an Urn

  1. Or you could just get dug into a garden, where you’ll feed the plants.

    The perennials where I planted my large dog’s ashes many years ago still grow bigger than anything else in my garden beds.

    Me, I’d love to be planted at the bottom of the hole for a new fruit tree. I won’t make any headlines, but I will make a tree that will shade and shelter and feed the living.

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