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Water Burials, Cryonics, Diamond Jewelry — What Can You Do With Your Body After You Die?
On Oxygen's series, “Exhumed,” digging up a body is the key to solving a crime. Most people, though, don’t need to worry about being disturbed from eternal rest. It’s just a question of where to go.
This article was updated to reflect the 2022 season of "Exhumed."
Burnings, burials, body preservation — if there is one thing a majority of cultures agree on, it’s that after death someone’s remains must be celebrated (and disposed of).
Of course, that’s partially because bodies need to be removed for our own health. Decay doesn’t just smell horrific, it also can cause illnesses and other physical ailments. But we don’t just toss our dead away: Instead we use body disposal as a way to mourn our loved ones and celebrate their lives. How that happens, though, differs depending on where you are in the world. In Tibet, there are sky burials, where a body is cut into pieces and placed somewhere so vultures can eat the remains as they believe the birds will carry the souls into heaven. In the Benguet region of the Philippines, the body is blindfolded and placed in a chair for eight days while people visit it.
In most western cultures, though, the body is usually buried or cremated after death. The remains will rest undisturbed — unless they are the key to solving a mystery, as seen in Oxygen’s series “Exhumed” from executive producers Kelly Ripa and Mark Consuelos, airing on Oxygen on Sunday, May 8 at 7/6c. In the series, digging up the dead will lead to justice in criminal cases.
Exhumations are rare, though, which means it’s not a priority for most to ensure their bodies are preserved after death. In fact, these days there are all kinds of interesting methods people choose when it comes to their final resting place.
1. Water Burial
There is something quite peaceful about the water, so it makes sense we’re drawn to the water as a final resting place. The disposal of bodies in the water has been practiced for centuries in areas as diverse as the Solomon Islands and Nordic countries. Now, of course, you won’t be set adrift on a burning raft — but you can have your body cremated and placed in a biodegradable urn, according to the website A Greener Funeral. While it’s a popular option to scatter ashes into the ocean, this ensures the remains go exactly where they’re supposed to and isn’t harmful for the environment.
Of course, some people want to keep their bodies intact. Like, really intact. And for a mere $200,000, an Arizona company, Alcor, will do exactly that and preserve your body with antifreeze, NBC News reported in 2017. The objective sounds pretty sci-fi — that you can be brought back to life with new technology one day if your body is perfectly frozen — but people do opt for this method.
"If you think back half a century or so, if somebody stopped breathing and their heart stopped beating we would've checked them and said they're dead," Max More, Alcor CEO, told the outlet. "Our view is that when we call someone dead it's a bit of an arbitrary line. In fact they are in need of a rescue."
3. Cremation Fireworks
OK, so the sky burial is sacred to Tibetans, but it is possible to send your body to the heavens if you so wish: turn your body into a firework. When your body is cremated, you can incorporate the ashes into a firework extravaganza, as one company, Heavenly Stars Fireworks, advertises. This way, you can be sent off into the afterlife in style, with a triumphant tribute for your loved ones to enjoy. It’ll set you back a few thousand dollars — but you do get to choose the music and colors.
4. Cremation Jewelry
But maybe your loved ones don’t like the idea of you permanently belonging to the sky. They’d like to keep you a little closer. Luckily, there are several options for that, including incorporating a loved one’s ashes into jewelry. There are so many options on Etsy if you’d like a jewelry piece that can hold ashes in it. If you’d like something a little more luxe, companies like Lonite will turn your ashes into an actual diamond, with costs starting at $1,400 in the United States. After all, diamonds are forever…
5. Eternal Reefs
Some, of course, prefer to feel they’re doing something positive with their body after death — so how about creating a new environment? The company Eternal Reefs turns cremated remains into artificial reef formations in the ocean. Best of all, “Eternal Reefs are permanent additions to the marine environment and serve to help preserve, protect, and enhance the oceans’ health,” the website states. Family members and friends are encouraged to personalize the reef with written messages and environmentally safe knickknacks, making it a truly unique and environmentally conscious memorial.
6. Donate Body To Science
The ultimate good, though, may just be donating your body to science. Donating your remains to science means medical professionals and students can study your body and learn from it — as nonprofit body donation company United Tissue puts it, “there is no substitute for human tissue,” so it’s truly an invaluable gift to help with future scientific advancements. Of course, you don’t have to donate your whole body if the idea makes you squeamish. Many people opt in as organ donors, meaning any valuable organs they have after death can be used to save someone else in need of them.