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Alternative Funerals

Memorials and Keepsakes

Lasting Memories

Planning a funeral is undeniably difficult. It’s emotional, unfamiliar and complicated. Doing some thinking in advance can make the process easier when the time comes. Plus a little forethought is a great way to learn about funeral options you may not have considered. If is sustainability is important to you, the greenest coffin you can buy is the one you don't buy. Embalming and caskets are not necessary and it is perfectly legal to be buried in a simple cloth shroud. After all, a traditionally scripted burial in a hardwood casket may not be the best fit for everyone

We started researching funeral alternatives and found a number of extraordinary ways to celebrate life and memorialize a loved one. They may be unconventional, but that’s what makes them so special.

However, a land burial does not speak to everyone, so you may consider a burial at sea. Great Burial Reef makes artificial reefs with an inside chamber that’s designed to hold cremated remains. Placed on the ocean floor, the reef becomes a living underwater ecosystem that could be the ideal resting place for an ocean lover or environmentalist (they’re also suitable for fresh water and land burials).

Keepsakes can provide comfort for people mourning a loss. Memory Glass creates orbs, touchstones and pendants that suspend a small portion of a loved one’s cremated remains in glass. They are designed to keep the memory of the loved one or even a pet close.

Similarly, LifeGem creates a memorial diamond from the carbon in cremation ashes or a lock of hair and compresses it into a diamond. LifeGem’s technology replicates the natural diamond-making process but speeds it up to produce a diamond in just 6 to 9 months and offers a wide selection of cut, carat, and color.

There are unusual, interesting and amazing ways to honor someone special. Choosing one that fits your personality or that of a loved one can make it easier to find comfort during a difficult time.

— Ann
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Alternative Funerals and Memorial Keepsakes

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Grommet Launch Conversation

  • Julia
    Julia

    We hope today’s Grommet inspires conversation here and among your family and friends around: What you would like the fate of your remains to be? Also, how you might memorialize a loved one? We strive to live our lives congruently with our values, so it is only fitting that this continues. There are a lot more options than you might think. People are honoring the lives of those who have passed in some unique, interesting and amazing ways. We look forward to hearing your thoughts and ideas on the topic. Joining us today to answer questions about the featured options are:

    Jason Rew and Andrew Whitaker, Founders of Great Burial Reef

    Nick Savage, President & Glass Artist at Memory Glass

    Dean VandenBiesen, Co-founder of LifeGem

  • Denise
    Denise
    7/27/2011 11:59 AM

    Jason and Andrew - Great Website Ad! Congrats!

  • Lori
    Lori
    7/27/2011 12:03 PM

    I think the reef is a wonderful idea. I would like to know how the cremated reamins go into such a sulpture?

  • Jason
    Jason
    7/27/2011 12:19 PM

    @Lori: Each reef is hand made in Florida ahead of time, and built into the reef is a "Care Chamber" which is where the cremated remains are permanently sealed and protected before the reef is lowered into the ocean. Great question. Thanks!

  • Lena
    Lena
    7/27/2011 12:21 PM

    Wow, the ocean urns are really a neat idea! I was a little skeptical until I watched the video. The sculptures are really beautiful, and I've always known I didn't want to be buried the traditional way. This idea feels a lot more special than just being cremated and scattered or put on someone's mantle. I’m glad to know other environmentally-thoughtful options exist.

  • Jason
    Jason
    7/27/2011 12:29 PM

    @Lena: The life that gets created on each Great Burial Reef is just amazing. It is a perfect option for anyone looking to avoid land burial while also creating life for generations. Thanks for the comment!

  • Lance
    Lance
    7/27/2011 12:25 PM

    I really like the alternatives to the gloomy funerals that we are accustomed to. Some of them seem a bit strange but I really like the Great Burial Reef! What a great way to celebrate life! Having a Living Memorial at sea is a great idea. I wish more people were educated on the options that are available.

  • Jason
    Jason
    7/27/2011 12:34 PM

    @Lance: We always encourage family to participate in the placement of their loved one's reef (even though it is not required). The day spent on the ocean is a wonderful way to celebrate the life, and say their final good-byes. People often tell us that the closure they receive is due in part to being out in the sunshine and natural setting. Thanks for the nice comments!

  • joanne
    joanne – Grommet Team
    7/27/2011 12:37 PM

    @Lance: Thanks for your comments and for helping to spread the word that there are alternatives to the traditional ground burial.

  • stellamojo
    stellamojo
    7/27/2011 12:29 PM

    There was a potter in Florida who would mix cremated remains into clay and made pots out of them. When he past away, however, and his son went into his studio he saw that his dad had not labeled the remains. Very sad.

  • Nick
    Nick
    7/27/2011 12:38 PM

    @stellamojo: At Memory Glass, keeping track of your loved one's cremated remains is the most important part of our business. We have multiple systems in place (bar-codes, labels, bins, grids, video, etc.) that guarantee that the final piece you receive contains ONLY your loved one's cremated remains.

  • Jason
    Jason
    7/27/2011 1:56 PM

    @stellamojo: I totally agree with Nick on how important it is to properly track and manage the custody of someone's loved one. Since many of our families chose not to attend the placement of the reef. It requires them to mail the remains to us. We take extraordinary care in ensuring that each reef is carefully named and handled with care. Great point. Thanks!

  • Kate
    Kate
    7/27/2011 12:31 PM

    I've never thought about this. Never wanted to think about this. I am intrigued by the idea of my ashes being turned into a diamond. Can you explain how that is possible?

  • Dean
    Dean
    7/27/2011 12:38 PM

    @Kate: Hi Kate. Diamonds are made of carbon. Carbon is the building block of all living things, therefore all lving things contain carbon. LifeGem extracts the carbon from a person or pet's cremated remains or locks of hair using a special high temperature furnace in a vacuum.

    We then take this carbon and place it into a diamond press, and using high temperature and high pressure at the same time (just like what happens beneath the earth) to form a rough dimaond crystal.

    We then cut & polish the diamond to it's finshed size and shape.

  • Headacheslayer
    Headacheslayer
    7/27/2011 12:36 PM

    This is *so* beautiful. I wish I had something from my grandma to make a pendant. She is a part of my heart and I miss her so badly sometimes, it hurts to breathe.

    I, myself, have an autoimmune disease that will cut my lifespan short. I had heard about the coral reef burials and I've told my husand about it. What an incredible way to benefit the earth, and a reflection of my passion for the sea.

    Thank you DG for offering this.

  • Nick
    Nick
    7/27/2011 12:41 PM

    @Headacheslayer: There is the opportunity to create a Memory Glass using other materials than cremated remains. Soil from a family farm or burial plot, or sand from a favorite beach works just as well to create a wonderful Keepsake.

  • Katherine
    Katherine – Grommet Team
    7/27/2011 12:51 PM

    @Headacheslayer: We are so sorry to hear about your personal medical burden. Although none of us is guaranteed tomorrow, to know that the possibility of a long lifespan isn't going to happen must be hard. Stay strong, and I hope that you find a way to memorialize your Grandma that helps ease your pain.

  • Julie
    Julie
    7/27/2011 12:53 PM

    I love the thought that my loved ones (or myself on day) can be a part of a living coral reef for all of eternity by being placed in the Great Burial Reef. I would like to know how an ocean placement is performed? What are my options?

  • Andrew
    Andrew
    7/27/2011 1:20 PM

    @Julie: Thank you for your comment. Ocean placements for our reefs are performed by our caring and dedicated staff. More often than not, families choose to be at sea with us for the ocean placement as it's a magnificent way to celebrate life and witness the placement. The reef is gently lowered to the ocean floor by our staff, and then the precise GPS coordinates of the final resting place are recorded so that you'll always know where your loved one rests. Once on the ocean floor, the reef begins to immediately attract and foster life, and remains safe for generations. Thanks again for writing!

  • Michelle @ Customized Endings
    Michelle @ Customized Endings
    7/27/2011 12:59 PM

    Hi guys - I love all your products! Truly. They are the physical embodiment of the philosophy I have for a new business. Creating unique memorials/funerals which celebrate life. What I wondered was how do you tackle marketing your products? As was mentioned earlier, your clients "Never wanted to think about this."

    Thanks, Michelle

  • anna
    anna
    7/27/2011 1:10 PM

    The thought of being buried in the beautiful waters in a reef that will provide a place for the fish to live and co habit is a beautiful thing and i certainly will be looking up The Great Burial Reef website for information for the full story of this company and the options they have to offer.

    Thank you GRommet for the information

    Anna

  • Jason
    Jason
    7/27/2011 1:43 PM

    @anna hudgins: The life that surrounds the reefs are amazing. Within a few months the newly placed reef begins to get covered with all kinds of new life. The video of the reefs that are over 3 years show just how beautiful and peaceful this final resting place can be. Thanks for the nice comment!

  • Paul
    Paul
    7/27/2011 1:14 PM

    This is awesome! I'm changing my will today. Plus, it's probably the only way I'll ever get to such a great location. Who needs a week's vacation in the Caribbean? This'll last a lot longer!

  • Jason
    Jason
    7/27/2011 1:36 PM

    @Paul: For those who love the warm weather Florida is a very beautiful place to chose Great Burial Reef. We also have other sites around the country for those who have a local connection to the water such as Massachusetts and Maryland. Thanks!

  • Lorraine H.
    Lorraine H.
    7/27/2011 4:04 PM

    @Jason Rew: Anything for the Great Lakes? I'm in Michigan.

  • Jason
    Jason
    7/27/2011 9:39 PM

    @Lorraine H.: Nothing yet for the Great Lakes You would be surprised at how many request we get for that area. Absolutely something that we should and will look into. The people of Michigan love the lakes as much as an ocean lover loves the sea. Thanks, and sorry for the slow response.

  • Margery Welker
    Margery Welker
    7/27/2011 1:21 PM

    A burial option that I would like to see is a floating ship of some kind that would degrade as it floated around in the water and the ashes inside would then meld with the ocean/lake/river. I would've loved to have something like that for my dad's ashes rather than pouring them into the Pacific.

    Or even a biodegradable land version. People could take these and place them in memorable spots but know that eventually the person would be one with the earth.

  • Kate
    Kate
    7/27/2011 1:33 PM

    I'm sorry, I find the thought of wearing a loved one as a ring or other trinket to be extremely creepy. I'd be happy to wear something they loved, but not a part of them. As for my own death, I'm looking forward to something nice and old fashioned, a memorial service, and cremation with my ashes scattered in a place or places that were meaningful to me.

  • Dean
    Dean
    7/27/2011 1:48 PM

    Hi Kate, no need to be sorry about the way you feel. Memorialization is a very personal thing. We have heard feedback though, from those who have scattered their loves one's ashes, that while it satisfies the wishes of the deceased, the survivors sometimes experience anxiety because they don't have something physical and tangible to help them accept and cope with their loved one's death.

  • Ann
    Ann
    7/27/2011 1:57 PM

    Great Burial Reef is such a brilliant alternative to a land based burial! I'll be looking up your website for more information! Can certified scuba family members participate in the actual ocean placement? That would be so amazing!

  • Andrew
    Andrew
    7/27/2011 2:32 PM

    @Ann: Yes, scuba divers may participate. For liability reasons, we request they do not do so until the reef is completely lowered to the ocean floor.

  • Audrey
    Audrey
    7/27/2011 2:20 PM

    The diamond is a made gem and man made gems are so cheap now I don't like the price of these! But for those who do, Diamonds are not the only gem available. So if you like rubies or emerals you should check them out as well, but still high in price. For those of us with less funds there are places to donate the body to science for teaching or research. Some of these will pick up the body with a call and then forward it to where it is needed then in a a little while will return the ashes for free. (So then you can send the ashes to the diamond place.) We have ordered the jewelry urns necklaces, braclets and believe or not a Christmas ornament, the items choose by each family member. These are fill your own so some may not like this idea. For our family it is ok. If when the time comes and the price goes down I would love to do the diamond too. I also have been to a Gothic family gathering and they had ordered the little glass vials and had them at the front of the memorial service and after each family member spoke they took one of the tree that was to be planted and put it on. I thought that was interesting too. We are not in any hurry to use my mother's choice but it is taken care of so less to think about when the time comes!

  • Carol
    Carol
    7/27/2011 2:28 PM

    I love the thought of having my loved one's remains turned into a beautiful diamond...something I can keep with me always...the reef idea is interesting, but I know I would never be able to visit my husband if he were buried under water.

  • Dean
    Dean
    7/27/2011 2:37 PM

    @Carol: Thanks for sharing your thoughts Carol...many of our clients say that they look forward to receiving their diamond, and it helps ease the grieving process by having something to look forward to.

  • Jason
    Jason
    7/27/2011 2:57 PM

    @Carol: That's true Carol, if you are not a scuba diver it would be a little more difficult to "visit" the reef specifically. That being said, once we give you the exact GPS location of the reef you'll know where it is always going to be. That way you always know that you can jump on a boat, anchor and watch a sunset while you float above your loved one's reef. Also, cemeteries are not always permanent, so that is something to consider when looking at what works for you and your needs. Thanks for the great comment.

  • Kim
    Kim
    7/27/2011 2:33 PM

    A friend of mine had her son's remains turned into a blue heart shaped LifeGem diamond. It was absolutely stunning!! She wears it everywhere and never takes it off. She say's it priceless. This is what I want done with my remains when I die.

  • Sara
    Sara
    7/27/2011 2:46 PM

    My mother chose a traditional burial/funeral for her final wishes, but I wanted something to help keep her memory with me. I told her a few months before she passed that I wanted to have a diamond created from a lock of her hair, so that I could wear it on a necklace and keep her close to my heart.

    She loved the idea, and it actually brought some comfort and relief to her before she died. She passed in June this year, and I placed an order for a 1/2 ct colorless LifeGem. I'm really looking forward to receiving my diamond. Thank you LifeGem.

  • Dean
    Dean
    7/27/2011 2:48 PM

    @Sara: Wow....thanks for sharing Sara...when a LifeGem brings comfort to a survivor we really feel like we have accomplished something.

  • Tori
    Tori – Grommet Team
    7/27/2011 2:52 PM

    Hi everyone! I wanted to share this comment left by one of our community members over on Daily Grommet's Facebook wall:

    @Paul - I totally want to be a diamond! Really though for me green is the way to go. Hopefully when I pass in a few hundred years MA will have a green forest/cemetery. Let my final act be reducing my carbon footprint.

    We are enjoying how today's feature is opening up new conversations and thoughts. Keep them coming!

  • Cheryl
    Cheryl
    7/27/2011 3:56 PM

    My husband and I combined our hair and created beautiful blue LifeGem…..priceless

  •  Mary Damico
    Mary Damico
    7/27/2011 9:09 PM

    Love all your ideas! Have a braid from my grandmothers hair from when she was 18 yrs old. Would love to use it some how. I myself am a born n bred beach girl n love the idea of the reef, especially since the burial at sea isnt allowed in some states. Do yown have prices of these items on here?

  • Jason
    Jason
    7/27/2011 9:40 PM

    @ Mary Damico: Pricing information is available on Daily Grommet's website. Thanks!

  • Laura
    Laura
    7/27/2011 9:16 PM

    I am interested in the diamond process, but cannot get more information before sending $1.00. I would really like to have more information without sending money. There is potential for many of my family members purchasing without having to pay for information. I would have thought it would have been included in the information on daily gromet

  • joanne
    joanne – Grommet Team
    7/27/2011 9:34 PM

    @Laura: Unfortunately our website would not allow us to collect customer information without putting a $ value on the transaction. If you would like to contact me directly I can get the information free of charge. My contact information can be found in the About Us section.

  • Jen
    Jen
    7/28/2011 10:48 AM

    I had the great fortune of attending a Great Burial Reef memorial service for a lost loved one. I found it to be a very moving and uplifting experience. What a beautiful way of celebrating the life of a person I had the honor to know.

  • Erik
    Erik
    7/28/2011 3:40 PM

    this is a great idea i love the idea of being part of a coral reef

  • Cory
    Cory
    7/29/2011 5:21 PM

    Being a native Floridian, the ocean is a big part of my life. What a wonderful thought to know that the body we leave behind can be part of a living reef.

  • Kate
    Kate
    11/18/2011 7:22 AM

    I would love to become a gem necklace or glass weight(actually that would be me),like the pup was in. But how do you go about doing this,since I'm still alive and what kind of proof that my ashes will actually be in a gem ? How would my loved ones know to do such a thing...could it be prepaid and noted in my will. I'm skeptical of whether it is actually me inside or not. Do you have something to send me with more info? I love this idea,but with lots of questions.Thank you !

  • Katherine
    Katherine – Grommet Team
    11/18/2011 10:48 AM

    @Kathleen Donovan: I will have someone from our Customer Support team reach out to you with more information. I know it's hard to trust this process in the face of so many stories of the mistreatment of ashes, but these are trustworthy businesses who have put in checks and balances to ensure that your final wishes are carried through.

  • Sandi
    Sandi
    1/2/2012 7:47 PM

    I would love to find out more about the memory glass and other such options.

    Unfortunately, my son was murdered 5 1/2 years ago. He was 5 months to the day of his 25th birthday. Somehow, he always knew he wouldn't see 25. He talked about it often from the time he was a pre-teen. He made everything so easy for me as he planned out every detail of what he wanted and how. I didn't have to think about anything, I just went through the motions and knew it was right, right down to the music. He wanted to be cremated and his ashes spread. He told me where and that's what I did, but I saved a small portion of his remains in hopes of finding a pendent of sorts to keep them in and with me. Could you please forward me any info that may help me in my quest? Thank you so much in advance. I appreciate any and all help. Sandi

  • Katherine
    Katherine – Grommet Team
    1/2/2012 9:40 PM

    @Sandi McGrane: What a heartbreaking story. I'm so sorry for your tragic loss. I will see what information we can get in your hands to help you make a decision.

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