What comes to mind when you hear the words cemetery, casket, or grave? Probably not rainbows and kittens... For me, those words have a very sad, dark, and honestly depressing connotation to them.
You’re probably thinking, “Well duh, Shelly, death is depressing.”
And you’re right, those thoughts and feelings are totally valid as you go through the grieving process. After all, losing a loved one is one of the hardest things any of us will ever go through.
- What if there was a better way to remember them, outside of the funeral services, the cemetery, the casket, or the grave?
- Instead of darkness, what if there was something lighter, something brighter to remember them by?
- What if the “scary” stigma surrounding death was just that –– a stigma, something created by culture that doesn’t have to be at all terrifying.
A Terrifying Diagnosis and Our Pre-Plan
I first started thinking about all of this when my mom was diagnosed with colon cancer five years ago. She started the process of getting things in order just in case the unimaginable happened.
My mom is a huge ball of sunshine and knew immediately that she wanted a Celebration of Life service and not a funeral service. The “final resting spot” decision was not as cut and dry though.
Like me, she wasn’t keen on being buried, and also didn’t want my brother and I to feel obligated to come visit her at a cemetery. You see, “death” traditionally leads to the idea or thought of forever being six feet under in the damp, dark ground, confined in a small wooden box.
Just typing that out sounds scary and brings me no positive thoughts whatsoever. My mom realized that and wanted no part of it.
She finally said “Just donate whatever you can and cremate the rest. Spread my ashes somewhere beautiful!”
I liked her idea and was on that same wavelength, but just wasn’t quite satisfied or in love with it. There had to be something more. She deserved it.
- Something more meaningful.
- More lasting.
- More beautiful.
In Search of Heritage Memorials in a Time of Need
“Could something as depressing as death somehow be made beautiful?” I found myself questioning.
So I turned to what every other millennial turns to, good ‘ol Google, in search of better ways for memorialization after someone passes. It turns out there is a whole universe of new memorial options out there for ashes!
Everything from putting them into fireworks, helium balloons or teddy bears, to turning them into pencils, a vinyl record or a beautiful paperweight.
One of my favorite ideas was using the ashes to plant a tree. So instead of having loved ones grieve and shed tears in some open field surrounded by a bunch of concrete tombstones, they could plant a tree wherever they wanted and watch it grow every year.
In a way, it would be like the death was creating new life and leaving behind something bigger. No empty, eerie cemetery feelings included.
All of these ideas were wonderful in their own way, but what if I move? What if I still want her with me? These just still were not special enough for my mom.
When Fate Intervened: From Headstones to Hand Stones
Flash forward 4 ½ years and I randomly stumbled across a job posting for a new startup company here in Austin, TX called Eterneva.
They turn ashes into diamonds.
Yes, you read that right. Your loved ones ashes can be transformed into one of the most beautiful things in the world!
That thought simply blew my mind. This option gave “eternal” and “forever” and “beautiful” a whole new meaning, in the most positive way possible.
Here is why I was so in love with the concept:
- This option lets you eternalize your loved ones and turn them into an heirloom that will be passed down for generations, along with their extraordinary stories, never to be forgotten. The perfect heritage memorial.
- Instead of something sad, the diamond is something beautiful you can always have with you, and a conversation piece to introduce others to their legacy. Truly an amazing way to honor and remember the remarkable both in a time of need and in bringing back happy memories.
- Finally, this company was changing the way society views death, and I couldn’t help but be drawn to it. This wasn't your typical funeral home or memorial service. It wasn't about headstones, or caskets. It was about brilliance and beauty, and a grief support process.
I wanted to be a part of that mission, to revolutionize the way we handle death and to remove the stigma that says our memory of it must be dark, gloomy, and depressing, stuck in the rituals of traditional memorial services or funeral homes.
Instead, I wanted to be a part of helping us all not focus so much on how it is that we go, but instead to focus on the remarkable lives we live and to let that light shine after we’re gone.
I started following Eterneva on every social media platform, becoming obsessed about all the people they were impacting, helping them through the grieving process and giving closure. I read every article I could find, and was blown away by each story and just the true genuineness of this company.
It was like all the stars finally aligned because not long after I discovered Eterneva, a good friend was introducing me to one of the co-founders. It was fate, because now here I am, doing everything in my power to bring light to the darkest moment of people’s lives, and I could not be more grateful.
Cancer Free and Fatefully Employed
I’m also super elated to say my mom is now 4 years cancer free!
When the time comes though, many many years in the future, I now know exactly how to honor her legacy.
After all, she’s already a diamond in my eyes...strong, beautiful and bright! She is the strongest woman I know. A warrior in more ways than one. She is remarkable.