As more and more people choose to live outside the box, they are choosing to die that way, too — preferring cremation over caskets with ceremonies ranging from traditional to out of this world (literally). If you've chosen to be cremated or your loved one wants to be cremated, it's time to consider the next step in that plan. What will you do with those cremated ashes?
Here are 11 options to consider (and one that you should definitely skip):
1. Scatter them. One popular option is scattering a loved one's ashes in a place where that person loved to be: a forest, the ocean or at their home. If you choose to go this route, keep in mind that some places, such as national parks, require a permit for scattering ashes. Also, check out this sage advice from Tré Miller Rodríguez in her blog post, "The 9 Things No One Tells You About Scattering Ashes," which includes helpful nuggets such as "Stand upwind. Getting ash in your eyes or stuck to your lip gloss isn’t what you want to remember about this ceremony."
2. Bury/inter them. The burial option is good for those who want to go the cremation route but still wish to have a special place to visit. This is also the only option for cremated ashes sanctioned by the Catholic Church. The Vatican recently released a statement reminding Catholics that the ashes of the dead should be kept in "sacred places" like a cemetery or a columbarium (which is like a mausoleum, but for cremation urns) and not kept at home or scattered on unholy ground.
3. Store them at home. If you're not Catholic, and you don't feel the need to scatter your loved one in a special place, you might want to store the cremation urn at home. You can purchase a beautiful urn in which to store your loved one's remains. If nothing else, going this route gives you time to think about the other options and decide which one will work best for you.
4. Build a reef out of them. If your loved one loved the ocean, you might consider scattering their ashes there. Or even better, a company called Eternal Reef can turn ashes into a concrete reef that will provide protection and habitat for ocean critters. You can learn more about that concept in the video below:
5. Plant them. If stashing a box of ashes on your mantle creeps you out, consider planting a tree with them. There are several companies that offer "living urns" in which your loved one's ashes are mixed with other nutrients that can be used to grow a plant or tree in your yard or a place of your choosing.
6. Turn them into a tattoo. Some tattoo artists will mix a portion of your loved one's ashes with ink to create a memorial tattoo you can keep with you for life. If tattoos are your thing, this might be a perfect option, but be sure to do your homework about any potential health risks (there isn't much scientific data out there one way or another) and talk to your favorite tattoo artist to see if it's possible.
7. Help them go out with a bang. A company called Holy Smoke will create loaded ammunition out of cremated remains. You can store the ammo in the engraved wooden box it comes in, or you take it along on your next hunting trip. Another company, Angels Flight, will turn the remains into fireworks, scattering the ashes with an explosion of light in the night.
8. Send them to the moon. Want to send your loved one to infinity and beyond? A company called Celestis offers several packages (including one-way and round-trip tickets) to send cremated ashes to the final frontier.
9. Turn them into a tune. If your loved one was a music lover, a company called Vinlyly will turn the ashes into a vinyl record. You supply the music (or voice recording) and cover image and the company creates a memorial that you can look at and listen to for years to come.
10. Make them shiny. Want some bling to remember your loved one? There are several companies that will turn cremated ashes into jewelry, hand-blown glass or stained glass that you can appreciate and admire for a long time.
11. Give them a hug. If you want a snuggly way to remember your loved one, consider storing the ashes in a stuffed animal urn. PerfectMemorials.com and Huggables create stuffed animals with special compartments for storing cremated ashes.
But whatever route you choose, don't scatter without permission
Whatever you decide to do with your loved one's ashes, there's one thing that you definitely shouldn't do and that's scatter them without permission. Recently, a performance at Lincoln Center in Manhattan had to be cancelled when an unknown patron scattered his loved one's ashes into the orchestra pit during intermission. It's unlikely that the opera house would have granted permission for this activity, but perhaps they could have all worked together to come up with a better way to honor this opera-loving friend.
Losing a loved one is often a gut-wrenching experience and it can be difficult to figure out the right way to remember them and honor their last wishes. If possible, take some time after the initial shock subsides to create a plan that's as out of the box as the person you are remembering, and find out what special permission or permits you'll need to make it happen.