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It’s your funeral: Creative after-death plans, from cremation jewelry to party buses, on the rise

image Six feet under? Not on your life, er, death. These days, people are creating their own “after death” plans that include everything from having their ashes sent to outer space to having them made into jewelry or blown into decorative glass.

“Preplanning is getting very popular,” says John Vigliante, owner of Branch Funeral Home in Smithtown, Long Island. “Nobody’s ever made decisions for the baby boomers. And after making their own decisions for their whole life, baby boomers aren’t about to let someone else make that last decision for them.”

When grown kids plan a parent’s funeral, this is often a wake-up call that they don’t want a similar service, says Lisa Takeuchi Cullen, author of “Remember Me” (Harper Collins). “They realize they don’t want the somberness,” she says. “They’re like, I got to have my wedding my way and my career my way and when I die, I want to throw a party my way.”

An acquaintance of Cullen’s chose to bury a friend with an at-home funeral: invited guests decorated the pine casket, then sat around the backyard and reminisced about the deceased.

“It was really more of a celebration of a life,” Cullen says.

Jessica Koth, spokesperson for the National Funeral Directors Association, says more families are getting creative about how to say that final goodbye. “They’re doing more unusual things,” she says. “One funeral director served a dish of ice cream to everyone at the service because the man who died ate ice cream every single day.”

Cremation, which is expected to exceed traditional funeral services by 2025, according to the Cremation Association of North America, offers many options.

Some people want their ashes turned into keepsakes and there’s actually a website, www.lifegem.com, at which ashes may be turned into diamonds. At www.memoryglass.com, you can order a loved one’s ashes to be turned into a decorative piece of blown glass.

Eternal Reefs (www.eternalreefs.com) offers underwater “green burial” in an artificial reef ball. “We’re finding that a lot of people are doing this because they want to save the planet and give something back after they’re gone, or they want to be buried near a favorite vacation spot – the beach,” says Eternal Reefs spokesperson Amanda Leesburg.

Families that decide to keep the ashes have a much wider choice of urns these days.

“People are buying elaborate urns that depict some portion of the person’s life, such as a golf bag urn for a golfer,” says Dennis Werner, general manager of St. Michael’s Cemetery and Crematory in Queens. “Some people send their loved one’s ashes into the sky. Some people scatter them at Yankee Stadium.”

Party buses might seem like the last vehicle anyone would board to go to a funeral. But after one of Vigliante’s clients asked to have one so that his entire family could follow the hearse and have a drink or two without worrying, Vigliante decided to start offering them as a service.

“Some people have taken me up on this,” he says. “Then the trip becomes more of a celebration than if everyone goes in their own car.”

Not that cars and buses are the only means of transport. Mark Anthony, past president of the New York State Funeral Directors Association, says he’s even been asked to transport caskets on fire engines – while family and friends ride alongside on motorcycles. For him, just about anything goes.

“It’s all about bringing meaning and appreciation for the life that was lived,” he says. “And offering comfort to the family”.

Article By: ROSEMARY BLACK DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER

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