Having recently redone my will, I've been forced to think about what happens to me when I'm hit by that metaphorical wayward bus and like Jacob Marley, am as dead as a doornail.
I don't mean what happens to all my earthly possessions – that's what the will is for. I mean, what happens to my body when bereft of life, I kick the bucket and shuffle off this mortal coil.
I've found some options for my earthly remains which may interest ageing baby boomers. They may also interest enterprising entrepreneurs in the funeral industry who are tired of thinking inside the box, or the urn for that matter.
The funeral business is a billion-dollar industry in Canada and one that will never run out of customers. Leaving aside the cost of a memorial service with food and wine, a typical burial with respectable wooden casket, transit to and from funeral home, embalming, grave site service and other miscellaneous costs such as the interment fee for opening and closing the plot, headstone, and granite base for the coffin to rest on could be anywhere between $5,000 to $30,000. Additionally, the plot could cost anywhere from $1,500 to $5,000 depending on location in Canada.
Likewise, a typical cremation in this country, including a respectable urn, transit to and from the funeral home, cremation, a grave site service and miscellaneous costs could run anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000. And if the urn is to be in a cemetery, the additional cost could be $1,000 to $3,000.
Of course, there are other things to consider, like a double-depth plot, a niche wall, a standalone family legacy niche, a crypt, an indoor niche or an indoor crypt. A memorial service, complete with appetizers and wine, might rival the cost of a wedding reception.
As for my own arrangements, a traditional burial strikes me as too boring and conventional, so for some time I've thought of cremation and having my ashes scattered in the waters of English Bay in Vancouver or Oak Bay in Victoria, or perhaps both. But part of me is fearful that by the time I snuff it, environmental groups or animal rights activists will protest 'ash-scattering on the ocean' due to the alleged harm my ashes could do to dogfish and seagulls. It is British Columbia after all.
But then I discovered something that Canadian funeral homes don't advertise: the option turn my remains into a diamond. Yes indeed, companies like LifeGem, Cremation Solutions and Algordanza will compress and super-heat my cremated ashes and turn them into a man-made diamond. They extract the carbon, convert it to graphite then heat it to almost 2,900 degrees Fahrenheit, after which point, they compress the graphite with 725,000 pounds per square inch of pressure – the weight of the world on what's left of my shoulders, so to speak – to turn me into a synthesized diamond.
As for the cost, it can be as inexpensive as a 'respectable' coffin. Remembrance Diamonds Corp., the Canadian partner of Algordanza of Switzerland, states that its "Memorial Diamonds" start at $2,899, but pricing goes up for larger carat stones. A 0.6-carat diamond could cost between $6,500 and $10,500, for example, while a one-carat diamond runs between $13,000 and $21,500.
Now admittedly there are some aesthetic concerns to these memorial diamonds, no matter how striking they are. Is my wife really going to wear what's left of me on a pendant or a ring? Or despite how stunning my stone will be, will there be a certain yuck factor to it? I can picture the scene playing out in my mind: "That's such a beautiful blue stone ring you're wearing." "Oh, that's my late husband Tony. He had such beautiful blue eyes…see right here?" as she holds out her hand.
Another opportunity out there is out of this world. A company called Celestis will send cremated remains into space, like it did for Gene Roddenberry, but it'll cost you. The company charges a whopping $12,500 to send a teeny weeny 'symbolic portion' of someone's remains to the Moon. That seems like a lot of money for a symbolic portion, if you ask me.
Enter Astrobotic Technology. This space logistics company is working with Carnegie Mellon University to put a privately-owned lunar lander on the moon for a lot less money using a Falcon 6 rocket built by Space X.
On Dec. 11, 2014, the company announced a service called MoonMail to help underwrite the cost of launching its private lunar lander and win the Google LunarX Prize. The MoonMail page on Astrobotic's website states that they are accepting small mementos for inclusion on its first mission to the Moon like a family photo, a ring, an SD Card, a lock of hair or cufflinks. You simply mail the keepsake in a small, special container to Astrobotic in Pittsburg, where its placed in its Moon Capsule and integrated into the Moon Pod on the lunar lander. More information on their kit is available here.
Although they won't take cremated remains, they will take gems. So once I'm a gem through LifeGem, Cremation Solutions or Algordanza, it'll cost as little as $460 to send me (well, a very compressed version of me) to the moon.
Voila! Astrobotics plans more missions in the future with bigger payloads. I can hardly wait.
Canadian funeral homes should be boldly going for this option faster than a rocket because we boomers lived and breathed Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Star Trek. And with apologies to God, many boomers are way more interested in physics than metaphysics.
"We buried dad on the Moon" will be a showstopper in any conversation my adult kids will have about their father. They won't have to feel guilty for never visiting the cemetery; all they'll have to do is look up at the man in the moon, and roll their eyes knowing that I got the last cosmic laugh. My memorial service will be like a launch party celebrating a pending trip. Friends and colleagues will do their worst William Shatner and Patrick Stewart impressions while The Blue Danube, Sprach Zarathustra and Dark Side of the Moon play in the background. Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters may be served.
Call it the ultimate trip, the final frontier, Monoliths-R-Us™ or any other metaphor you want, but ask a boomer these three questions: Do you want your body to buried in a cemetery? Do you want your ashes scattered on the ocean? Or would you rather be turned into a diamond and be 'deliberately buried' (to quote Stanley Kubrick) on the moon?
When the time comes – which I hope will be later rather than sooner – I choose to go to the moon. Boldly. I expect others will too.
Tony Wilson is a franchising, licensing and intellectual property lawyer at Boughton Law Corp. in Vancouver, he is an adjunct professor at Simon Fraser University (SFU), and he is the author of two books: Manage Your Online Reputation, and Buying a Franchise in Canada. His opinions do not reflect those of the Law Society of British Columbia, SFU or any other organization.