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What to do with your physical remains?

From Axion


Illustration of coffin with a rocket booster on the back

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios


Modern burials and death practices are changing how we die, and where we go when we die, Jessie Li writes.

  • Why it matters: Today, the funeral industry is worth $17 billion. Businesses are innovating on traditional practices and more people are taking control of how they wish to die and be buried.

It now ends with most of us getting turned into dust and posted online. Some new burial practices and places include:

  1. Orbit in outer space. SpaceX recently launched the cremated remains of 152 dead people on its Falcon Heavy rocket.
  2. Transformation into a diamond. Engineers can make the carbon from human ashes physically and chemically identical to natural diamonds.
  3. Green burial. Touted as an environmental and financially friendly option, green burials can be as simple as wrapping a body in a cotton shroud and lowering it to the ground.
  4. Green cremation. Instead of using flame, green cremation uses heated water and an alkali solution to accelerate the natural decomposition of the body.
  5. Celebration of life ceremony. An end-of-life ceremonycelebrates a person’s life and legacy, often with a dedicated planner and extravagant speaker and activity lineups.
  6. Digital tombstones. One Slovenian cemetery is experimenting with digital tombstones that can show pictures and video, and potentially link to a smartphone application for interactivity.
  7. Smart library. One Tokyo crematorium allows you to summon ashes with the swipe of a card: A machine transports the ashes from an underground vault through a conveyor belt to the right room.
  8. Pet burial. “Togetherness Resting Places” reunite humans and pets “when the time comes.”
  9. Memorial reef. Florida-based company Eternal Reefs mixes ashes with “reef ball” material.
  10. Living wake. Some people are attending their own funerals ahead of death.
  11. Live-streamed funerals. An estimated 20% of funeral homes offer live-streaming.
  12. Disney World. About once a month, Disney employees clean up scattered remains ($) in the park, where visitors sneak in ashes.
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