About 50 percent of Colorado's residents choose to have their bodies cremated without giving their survivors a clue about what to do with the final remains. Now, a new local company, Aerial Tribute, has an out-of-this-world idea for where they can go next:
Straight up to the heavens (if not heaven itself), through aerial ascension.
"Aerial scattering using light aircraft is not a new idea. That has been around for quite a while, and it's available pretty much across the country," says Aerial Tribute founder Marc Arnold. "I have a high-performance sailplane, and over the years, friends and family have asked me to release ashes for them. It's different, because when I release them into a thermal, nature draws the ashes upward -- and that has been appealing to people."
Here's how it works: Arnold takes off in his glider from Boulder and releases the ashes over the Rocky Mountains, where a thermal updraft draws the ashes up....and up...and up.
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The altitudes that thermals can reach over the mountains are so high, some of the ashes remain in the atmosphere indefinitely, Arnold says. "Our motto is that 'every cloud is a monument,'" he explains. "So even though the release is done over the Rocky Mountains, it's really a global release. And that means wherever a family member may live, they can look up at the sky and remember their loved one."
Aerial Tribute's service is the first of its kind, Arnold says, and he thinks it has particular appeal because it's economical, it's eco-friendly, and it works for families that are spread across the country. "There has been a large change in the habits of people or the preferences of families with respect to final arrangements," Arnold says. "It's particularly appealing to families that may have had a loved one cremated, and now they just have an urn on the shelf and they don't know what to do with it. They don't want to throw it out -- that's disrespectful. So this is an alternative that provides people a dignified and really kind of beautiful ascension."
Aerial Tribute is a member of the Cremation Association of North America. The service costs from $600 to $1,000, and customers can purchase a video of the ash cloud going upward and scattering in the sky.
Interested in exploring other innovative places for eternal rest? Read about one in "Spinning in the grave: Immortalize your ashes in vinyl."