Celebrations of Life and Funeral Alternatives: Look to the Skies!
Increasingly, people around the world are choosing alternatives to traditional funerals as they contemplate how best to remember and celebrate a loved one’s life. Funerals and memorial services are for the living, and today there are special ways to commemorate a life - especially for those with an affinity for looking skyward.
While non traditional funerals are not new - think Viking funeral dirges - the ever increasing choice of cremation as final disposition is fostering more personalized memorial service ideas incorporating new venues, technologies, services, and providers. Today you can create diamonds from remains, use them to create an ocean reef, and/or be part of a “green funeral” in an eco-friendly container. Among the most compelling new services are those that incorporate a love of flight, visual display, and space travel.
Going Out With a Bang
Fireworks displays have for centuries been deployed as a way of celebrating important events including the dawning of a new year, birthday celebrations for people and nations, and many other commemorative events. It seems only fitting that one of our most important events - the celebration of a life well lived - should also include the option for a night sky fireworks display.
Hunter Thompson’s nighttime fireworks memorial. Image Credit: Pinterest.com
Many will recall the 2005 fireworks display that sent Gonzo Journalist Hunter Thompson’s ashes into the Colorado night sky as a fulfillment of his final wishes, witnessed by his friends and family. Companies around the world, including the UK’s Heavens Above Fireworks, offer spectacular displays as a final tribute.
Name A Star in Someone’s Memory
Another popular way to keep someone’s memory alive is to “name a star” for them. This symbolic act - no one really ever “officially” names a star even though astronomers with their star catalogs and Mayan priests with their religious proclamations have tried - confers a perceived memorial permanence, a feeling that, “I can always look up in the night sky and remember you.”
Star naming is a very popular tribute. Among the many companies that offer this service only Name A Star Live turns this compelling symbolic act into a real memorial experience - an alternative funeral that can be shared by family and friends. Those who choose to honor a loved one with a star named through Name A Star Live can attend - or witness via webcast - the launch of their loved one’s star information into space as part of a real rocket mission! The mission can be tracked on a website as a continuing memorial and shared again and again by displaying the authentic launch certificate commemorating the mission.
Celebration of Life Service with Celestis Memorial Spaceflight
Perhaps the ultimate in life tributes is provided by Houston, Texas-based Celestis, Inc. Since 1997, Celestis has been the pioneer and iconic global leader in providing memorial spaceflight services - the launch of a symbolic portion of cremated remains or DNA sample into space - for the global public.
Gene and Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, Astronaut L. Gordon Cooper
Trusted by people from more than 25 countries - including NASA astronauts L. Gordon Cooper and William Pogue; Star Trek celebrities Gene and Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, and James “Scotty” Doohan; science fact and fiction luminary author Sir Arthur C. Clarke; noted adventurer and co-discoverer of the Titanic Ralph White; and visionaries, icons, and legends Dr. Gerard K. O’Neill, Kraft Ehricke, Dr. Timothy Leary, and Mareta West, among many others - Celestis provides a uniquely compelling memorial experience - the opportunity to fulfill the dream of spaceflight.
Celestis Memorial Spaceflights can fly your loved one's ashes or DNA into Earth orbit.
Celestis services are surprisingly affordable (several are priced below the average cost of a funeral service in the US), easy to arrange, and environmentally benign. Clients choose a destination - Earth Rise (launch into space with return of a flown keepsake); Earth Orbit (the Celestis payload orbits the Earth for years and re-enters, blazing like a shooting star until vaporized); Luna (payload orbits the Moon, impacting or landing on the lunar surface for permanent placement of flight capsules); or Voyager (a deep space mission beyond the Earth-Moon system).
The Celestis Luna Service flies your loved one's cremated remains or ashes to Earth's nearest celestial neighbor.
1. Gathering on launch day
Celestis conducts a three-day celebration of life memorial event surrounding the launch of each memorial spaceflight. Launches take place from Florida (the NASA Kennedy Space Center), California (Vandenberg Air Force Base on the Central California Coast), and Spaceport America (near Las Cruces, New Mexico).
Sign outside the mission headquarters hotel for a Celestis launch
Families and friends of the spaceflight “participants” - those whose flight capsule containing cremated remains or a DNA sample is on board - gather at a hotel near the launch site designated as “Mission Headquarters” by Celestis two days before the scheduled launch. After registering, and attending an informal reception, everyone prepares for the T-1 day activities.
Celestis families touring the launch pad at Vandenberg AFB, California
On T-1 (the day before the launch), Celestis conducts a tour of the launch facility via chartered transportation, often including a visit to the launch pad itself with the rocket on display. This intimate chance to wish a final “Godspeed” or “Bon Voyage” is especially meaningful and something that provides cherished memories for all who attend.
A non-sectarian memorial service follows. Family members and friends share with their newly discovered friends and fellow celebrants the stories and memories of their loved ones who are about to depart on a final journey of remembrance. Astronauts and space experts provide context - describing in detail the mission of purpose about to occur.
Sharing memories of their loved one at a Celestis memorial service in California
T-0 (launch day) usually arrives early. Guests board chartered transportation to a preferred viewing site to witness the launch - a dream fulfilled! As the rocket’s engines roar to life and bathe the viewing site in a bright, distinctive light, all await the confirming powerful rumble as the precious payload lifts off and begins its journey skyward. Emotions of joy, love, and exhilaration are impossible to avoid and everyone pauses for a moment of reflection and congratulations before returning to begin their personal journeys home.
Tears of joy shortly after the launch of their loved one into space
2. Forever memories
The special service provided by Celestis continues even after the launch of a Memorial Spaceflight Mission. The mission events are webcast in real time for those who are not able to attend the launch, and a custom video is prepared and distributed of all the events after the launch.
For some missions, the orbiting Celestis spacecraft may be tracked on www.celestis.com, for others a flown keepsake - the actual capsule that flew into space - is returned to the family. For those selecting a lunar or deep space mission, one only has to look up into the night sky to appreciate the fulfillment of the dream of spaceflight for a loved one.
Celestis places the biographies of their participants on its website and provides a full social media complement for families and friends to maintain the friendships and community created at every mission. In this way, each Celestis participant’s celebration of life can be continuous and family and friends always have the opportunity to visit, remember, and honor a life well lived and a final journey unequaled. Contact Celestis for more information, including pre-planning options.
When you fly your loved one on a Celestis Earth Rise memorial spaceflight, your loved one flies into space and returns to Earth. After the mission Celestis provides you a Launch Certificate and the flown capsule or module -- with the cremated remains still inside -- as a keepsake. You can receive these items in an optional frame, as pictured here.
What A Way to Go!
Choosing an appropriate celebration or alternative to a traditional funeral has never had more abundant options than today. For those looking for a celestial departure, the services described here represent affordable, appropriate, adventuresome, and fulfilling options offered by experienced providers.
The knowledge that one’s final journey will be special can bring some light into an otherwise trying time. As one Celestis family member recalls - “toward the end, he didn’t smile much, but boy did he light up whenever I mentioned that we planned to send him on a spaceflight.”
For many of us, as we watch the liftoff of a powerful rocket carrying the precious cargo of a loved one or friend on a final journey into space, the knowledge that we provided that special moment somehow eases the feelings of loss - and, at least for a while, substitutes fulfillment for grief, celebration for loss. And this is why we sought an alternative service to begin with.