Urns, burials, scatterings — and now fireworks.
When families decide on cremation for themselves or a loved one after death, there is always another decision: What should you do with the cremains?
On Saturday night, Greenlawn Funeral Homes will present the first display of a new Firework Memorial program, a partnership with AM Pyrotechnics in which fireworks are manufactured with cremated remains. Basically, ashes are fired into the air with the explosives.
Some have said, "this is the coolest thing I've ever seen," said funeral director Jim Carver about the new program. One family has purchased a prearranged fireworks memorial for the one-year anniversary of a loved one's death.
Still, Carver said, others think it sounds a little weird.
Carver's family will be the first to try Greenlawn's new program. The cremains of his father, James Carver, will be incorporated in Saturday's memorial display near the Greenlawn Memorial Gardens at 3506 N. National Ave.
His father died and was cremated in 2008, Carver said, and his family will gather for a cookout and memorial celebration of life that includes an eight-minute fireworks display using some of his father's ashes. His father, a veteran, loved watching fireworks and would have enjoyed knowing his ashes were scattered this way, Carver said.
"We are always looking for something to help families memorialize their lives," Carver said. "To me, every family is different how they want to recognize their loved one or celebrate their life."
Jason Diemer, vice president of Greenlawn Funeral Homes, came up with the idea about a year ago, said Clay Adams, Greenlawn manager. "We've been thinking out of the box. You can put cremains into space, we thought — why can't we put them into fireworks."
Diemer and his team contacted Aaron Mayfield, owner of AM Pyrotechnics, a fireworks manufacturing business just north of Springfield.
Mayfield, it turned out, had already been creating fireworks memorials for individual clients.
Treating the remains with respect and reverence, he said, they incorporate the ashes into a rather large fireworks aerial shell. "And it explodes with a lot of beauty and covers a lot of the sky, the size of a football field. It spreads the cremated remains into the sky and the particles are taken into the wind," he said.
At Greenlawn, the Fireworks Memorials range from a $300 "Sensational Celebration" to the "Ultimate Goodbye," costing between $8,000 and $10,000.
Adams said there is no Missouri law that prevents scattering remains, and Greenlawn is outside city limits, so the firm can legally shoot fireworks.
He believes their fireworks program is the only one in the Midwest, but it's not a new concept nationwide.
Not only are cremains being made into fireworks or sent into space, they are being incorporated into art and made into diamonds.
Carver thinks the fireworks will be particularly popular in the summer, perhaps around the Fourth of July, when Greenlawn can go with a family to explode fireworks and ashes over a lake.
People want their ashes scattered in lakes already, Carver pointed out, "and what a way to do it."
He said families are getting more creative in general when it comes to memorializing a loved one. He remembers one family wanted the chapel set up like a beach.
"I think we are learning that traditions are going out the window," he said. "Families are saying they want something different."