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In US, innovation blazes new paths to the afterlife

13 october 2011, 11:32
Photo courtesy of HolySmoke.com
Photo courtesy of HolySmoke.com
Want to go into the afterlife with a bang? Or just make it technologically easy for visitors to your gravestone to learn more about you? Some innovative US entrepreneurs can help.

Since July, Holy Smoke, founded by a couple of game wardens in Stockton, Alabama, has offered a unique service: stuffing cremation ashes into pistol bullets or shotgun cartridges, AFP reports.

Thad Holmes, 56, and Clem Parnell, 58, came up with the idea while talking about funerals.

"You know, I've thought about this for some time and I want to be cremated," Parnell explained on the business partners' website, Myholysmoke.com.

"Then I want my ashes put into some turkey-load shotgun shells and have someone that knows how to turkey hunt use the shotgun shells with my ashes to shoot a turkey," he said.

"That way I will rest in peace knowing that the last thing that one turkey will see is me, screaming at him at about 900 feet per second."

Holy Smoke offers no actual cremation services, but it does promise "care and reverence" when it funnels your ashes, or those of your loved ones, into either 100 rifle cartridges or 250 pistol cartridges or shotgun shells -- all "high quality, hand loaded".

Prices start at 850 dollars for what Holy Smoke calls an eco-friendly product: "The ecological footprint caused by our service, as opposed to most of the current funeral internment methods, is virtually non-existent."

Not into wild game? Holmes said ash-filled ammunition can be useful for protecting the family home. "If somebody breaks in," he told AFP, "you can use your ashes to protect your home -- even if you are gone."

So far, Holy Smoke has filled ammo with the ashes of two people, and it is preparing to do so for four others.

Enquiries are running in the hundreds, notably from hunters, target and clay-pigeon shooters and military personnel in Canada and the United States, Holmes said.

In a more traditional vein, but keeping up with the technological zeitgeist, former IBM engineers Greg Young and Zachary Garbow have come up with the idea of affixing QR codes onto gravestones.

Such "quick response" codes are square matrix barcodes, seen most frequently in advertising, that can be photographed with a smartphone in order to call up further information on a website.

In a cemetery, affixed to a gravestone, the QR code becomes a "remembrance code" -- a portal to photographs, obituaries and messages of condolences which remain on a funeral home's servers.

It's "an entirely unique approach to memorializing a life lived," says Funeral Innovations, the company founded by Young and Garbow to promote the concept.

Young told AFP that about 100 tombstones in Iowa and Wisconsin have QR codes affixed to them, at a cost of about $100 each, Young told AFP.

"It's interesting, not for the older generation, but for the upcoming generation, the baby boomers," said Mandy, an Iowa funeral home employee who declined to give her full name. "They will like this."

By Fabienne Faur

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