Marvelous or Morbid? New Methods of Commemorating the Dead

Written by: Katy Meyers Emery

Primary Source: Bones Don’t Lie

Funerals and memorials are important steps following death. If death is a rite of passage (as has been argued by a number of anthropologists), then acts of commemoration are the ritual that helps us cope and move forward. Funerals allow us to acknowledge death, remember life, and offers continuity and support for the living. Through the funeral, the status quo is maintained and the chaos created by the death is replaced by order. They actual manner in which commemoration and funerals occurs though varies widely across time and space. What is considered a ‘good funeral’ can mean anything from burning the body within a large boat and pushing the fiery craft out to sea, or placing the body on a high mountain top where it can be eaten by vultures. Today, there are a number of ways that we commemorate the deceased at their funeral and memorial services- what seems like an appropriate send-off for one family can be seen as morbid to another. Here are some fantastic examples…


Firework funeral, via Firework Review

Just Because You’re Dead Doesn’t Mean You Can’t Go Out With a Bang

Cremation has been an accepted form of body treatment for the past century, and in recent years is becoming increasingly popular. We’ve discussed before the various ways that one can use cremated remains to create unique memorials for their loved ones, such as turning them into a diamond or creating an album using their ashes. A new patent has been filed by Wallace Brown that may change our preferred method of disposing of the ashes of a loved one. Brown’s patent is for a device that will allow for aerial disposal and dispersal of human remains. The device is made up of two primary parts: the canister and mortar. Basically, the design is for a firework like send-off whereby the remains of your loved one are propelled into the sky and scattered either with a bang or without one if less noise is preferred. In many senses, this type of memorial makes sense- fireworks are a major part of many family and commemorative events like Fourth of July, Memorial Day or Labor Day- therefore, it does seem fitting that one could be scattered into the sky like a firework. You can check out details about the patent here: US Patent #8,739, 374 B2. This could be the perfect send-off for a Hunter S. Thompson fan (his ashes were fired from a cannon).

For actual firework send-offs, you can also check out Heavenly Stars Fireworks.

Deceased woman presides over her own funeral, complete with menthol and Busch light, via Jezebel

Deceased woman presides over her own funeral, complete with menthol and Busch light, via Jezebel

Just Because You’re Dead Doesn’t Mean You Can’t Party at the Funeral

When their mom died, the daughters didn’t want her to have a normal funeral- they felt that the somber atmosphere wouldn’t properly reflect how vibrant she was in life. With the help of their local funeral director, they were able to prop up the remains of their mother complete with a “case of Busch beer… a menthol cigarette in her hand, and a disco ball flashing overhead.” The mom was dressed in black and gold, the colors of her favorite football team, and she presided over her own funeral. Like Bernie, she wore sunglasses throughout the event. According to news, people attending the funeral thought that it was a fitting send-off for her. Read more here: Deceased Women Looks Fabulous, Smokes Menthol at World’s Greatest Funeral


Kim Mordue gets a tattoo using her son’s ashes, via Trend Hunter

Just Because You’re Dead Doesn’t Mean You Can’t be Useful and Pretty.

Of course, there are many other great options, especially for those who choose to be cremated. Your remains can be placed in an hourglass to remind friends and family that their time too is running out. It could be a wonderful conversation piece on your mantle, and provides a nice usable memorial. How about a commemorative tattoo that has the remains actually in the ink? Not only do have have art that reminds you of the person, but they become a part of you forever. A really cool option is that you can be embedded into stain glass windows. It is a way to light up the life of your relatives, literally. For the hunter in your life, perhaps turning them into a bullet is an appropriate send-off. At Holy Smoke, you can be turned into a wide variety of bullets that can actually be used by your loved ones.

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Katy Meyers Emery
Katy is currently a graduate student studying mortuary archaeology at Michigan State University. Her academic interests are in mortuary and bioarchaeology, with a specific interest in connecting the physical remains to the mortuary context. Along with this, she is also interested in Digital Humanities, and the integration of technology into academia, as well as public archaeology and outreach.
Katy Meyers Emery

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