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The sluggish economy has affected every industry in America, even the funeral industry. According to an Associated Press report, cash-strapped families are choosing such low-cost alternatives to standard funerals as cremation, and as a result, funeral industry revenue has declined steadily since 2007.
Another factor that may be having an impact on the bottom lines of traditional funeral homes is the growing number of businesses providing unique send-offs to the departed. These businesses specialize in out-of-the-ordinary services that replace lilies and pipe organ music with surprising keepsakes and spectacular marvels.
Some of these businesses provide services that use state-of-the-art technology, while others use techniques that pre-date the Roman Empire. But what they all have in common is that they provide memorable send-offs to the person for whom the average funeral just won't cut it.
Read ahead to see 10 businesses that provide unusual funerals, creative cremations and much more.
Death: It's a Living Premieres Thursday, January 31 9p ET/PT
By Daniel Bukszpan
Posted 25 January 2013
In 1997, the Florida-based Celestis company launched the first post-cremation memorial space flight. Fittingly, this involved shooting the ashes of LSD advocate Timothy Leary and "Star Trek" creator Gene Roddenberry into the cosmos.
According to its website, "The remains are placed in a specially designed, individual flight module or capsule… They are then integrated into the Celestis spacecraft, which is attached to the rocket and launched into space." Services range from $995 for a simple flight and return to earth, and $12,500 for an orbit around the moon.
The Cryonics Institute is a non-profit organization offering cryopreservation to its clients. This involves storing the deceased in liquid nitrogen and maintaining it in cryostasis, in the hope of thawing the subject in a future world where today's fatal maladies have been cured.
Doing this through the Cryonics Institute isn't cheap. It's subject to a lifetime membership fee of $1,250 and a $28,000 charge for the actual cryopreservation. There is also an $88,000 fee in the event that the subject needs to be transported.
According to its website, LifeGem creates diamonds from cremation ashes. This may sound unorthodox, but one look at the emotional testimonials from clients should provide all the convincing anyone would need.
"I'm very thankful that you have thought of a way to make a heart breaking situation a little bit brighter," one testimonial reads. "This is a truly wonderful thing that you are all doing." Prices range from $2,490 to $19,999.
A burial on dry land is not the only option for people who loved the sea. The Neptune Society cremation service has created the Neptune Memorial Reef, a man-made reef in the ocean near Key Biscayne.
According to the company's website, the reef benefits the marine ecosystem. "A recent marine study conducted by the Department of Environmental Resource Management concluded that marine life around the Reef has gone from zero to thousands in two years."
Heavens Above Fireworks is a company with an attitude towards the end of life that many people can probably agree with. "We think a person's life should be celebrated once the time has come." And what could be more celebratory than a fireworks display?
The UK-based business creates fireworks that incorporate cremation ashes. It specifies on its website that the display is not a substitute for a proper funeral, but a celebration that should come weeks or even months after. Prices start at approximately $1,600 for the "Simple Farewell" package.
According to its website, Memorials.com is "one of the leading Internet providers of funeral, cemetery and memorial products." It offers a wide range of traditional items, such as urns, headstones and monuments.
One of the less traditional options offered is "Art in Ashes," which involves the mixing of cremation ashes into an abstract oil painting. Prices range from just under $600 to almost $1,800.
The burial art of mummification dates back thousands of years. The Utah-based business Summum offers modern Americans the opportunity to undergo the funerary procedure that has been practiced worldwide since time immemorial.
Summum offers its own take, which they call "Modern Mummification." According to its website, the technique creates "a synthesis of medical technology, modern chemistry, and esoteric art." The cost for this service is $67,000.
Fans of the rock group KISS who have gone to the hereafter can no longer rock and roll all night, nor can they party every day. However, they don't have to stop beings fans of the legendary band, thanks to the KISS Casket.
According to the website, the casket is made of 20-gauge steel, and it features the faces of band members Gene, Paul, Peter and Space Ace as they appeared on their 1978 solo albums. The cost is $3,299.
The Robert L. Adams Mortuary has served the Compton, Calif. community for almost 40 years. It is owned by the company president, former R&B recording artist Peggy Scott-Adams, and it has a drive-thru facility which allows people to view their loved ones from the comfort and safety of their cars.
"Some people have fears of going into a funeral home to pay their respects," Adams said in an interview. "This way they can view the remains and sign the register book." The drive-thru is only used by request of the family, and Scott said that it is provided at no additional cost.
Cremation Solutions is a Vermont-based company owned by Jeff and Stacie Staab that offers cremation products ranging from the traditional to the unconventional. The latter category surely includes the company's personal cremation urns.
The company uses facial recognition software to create a bust in the likeness of the departed, although the site makes clear that clients can make one in the likeness of "a favorite celebrity or hero, even President Obama!" Prices are $600 for a six-inch keepsake urn and $2,600 for an 11-inch full-sized urn.