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What to do with the body


When we talk about what to do with our earthly remains, just two options are usually discussed: burial or cremation. Oh, and then you can have your ashes scattered, kept in an urn on the mantle, or interred at a cemetery. While there’s nothing wrong with a traditional burial, there are many ways to get creative with your earthly send-off. Why not think outside the casket? Some of the final resting options out there may surprise you. Read on as we explore meadows, diamonds, and watery graves.

White Haven Memorial Park. - PHOTO PROVIDED
  • White Haven Memorial Park.

There are a handful of places in Rochester where you can have a so-called ‘green’ or ‘natural’ burial, which typically means no embalming (or embalming with organic, formaldehyde-free products), and being buried in sustainable, biodegradable clothing, shrouds or containers. The goal is to fully allow the body to return to the soil naturally, causing no interruptions to the surrounding ecosystem.

Headstones are usually not allowed — graves are usually marked with flat rocks, trees, or other plants — and green burials take place in a designated section of the cemetery. Each of the following places has a dedicated green burial space, with slightly different regulations:

Holy Sepulchre Cemetery (2461 Lake Ave.) - The first Catholic cemetery to be green burial-certified in New York State. Its green burial space, and the one it oversees at Ascension Garden Cemetery (1900 Pinnacle Rd., Henrietta) near the rolling hills of Mendon Ponds, has trees, flowers, and footpaths to keep visitors from disrupting the ecosystems.

Mt. Hope Cemetery (1133 Mt. Hope Ave.) - Mt. Hope offers green burials at the Garden of Renewal, which is filled with old trees and within grounds of the hilly historic cemetery.

White Haven Memorial Park (210 Marsh Rd., Pittsford) - Your remains will feed the wildflower meadow, which feeds pollinators, which enable so much more growth and life. And it’s a Audubon International designated site, where bluebirds nest each spring.


Picture this: You’re sitting in a café and someone admires your diamond stud earrings. Your reply? “Thank you! They’re my mother.”

Lonité, a Swiss company specializing in ashes-to-diamonds services, has an office in Buffalo where you can bring a loved one’s cremains or hair and start the process of making grandma sparkle forever.

Lonité’s high-tech lab recreates the natural process by which the earth’s heat and pressure converts carbon into its crystalized form. Nine to 12 months after you hand over the ashes, you’ll have a gem that can be set in the jewelry of your choosing. (Talk about a family heirloom.)

The service requires at least eight ounces of ashes, 10 ounces of cremated bones, or 0.4 ounces of hair, each of which would yield a quarter-carat diamond. Depending on the amount of cremains available, you could order more than one stone — so siblings don’t need to fight over diamond-dad.

Expect to pay from $1,400 for a quarter-carat in the natural amber color (other colors including colorless for $2,500) up to $40,500 for a 3-carat diamond, and that’s after you’ve paid cremation fees elsewhere. You can also choose many different cuts, and for an additional fee, have your diamond set in jewelry.


If being in, on, and around water is your first love, you might consider an at-sea burial. That’s right, it’s entirely legal to be ‘buried’ at sea. If you don’t mind being fish food, and, subsequently, fish poop. It’s The Circle of Life, Atlantis version.

I learned about this from an Instagram reel by Lauren the Mortician (@lauren.the.mortician), who provided a head start on research. There are, of course, regulations. No, it’s not legal to just dump a body in a body of water. You’ll have to go through a funeral home — shop around and you’ll find one that will link you to the services.

First, you need to get the (free) permit from the EPA. Then, head out at least four nautical miles from shore (nearly five miles, in landlubber speak), and drill holes in the casket. It’s also recommended to weigh the box with sandbags or bricks inside so it sinks quickly. There’s a minimum depth requirement of 800 feet of water — sorry, that rules out our beloved local lakes, and you can’t go over High Falls in the style of a Viking funeral (but can you imagine?).

Contact a funeral home, say you want this, and let them find it for you. You’ll pay between $2,500 to $5,000 to accommodate a crew and a ship (in addition to funeral home costs).

Bonus points if you’re sent off in a mermaid tail (just use a fabric or sand-based silicone one, because regular silicone isn’t biodegradable).

Rebecca Rafferty is an arts writer at CITY and the co-producer and host of art/WORK, an arts conversation video series created in collaboration with WXXI. She can be reached at [email protected].