Turning Ashes Into Trees

I saw this on Kickstarter yesterday – the Bios Incube, which describes itself as “the world’s first incubator for the afterlife.” Essentially it’s a way to grow a tree from a loved ones ashes, transforming the end of life into a return to life through nature.

At first I was a little uncomfortable. Would I really want this at my house? And knowing that I have the opposite of a green thumb, what happens when I inevitably kill the plant? What kind of emotions would that stir up? (In college, I proudly kept a tiny succulent plant alive for a whole year, only to discover that my friend had managed to grow hers to 10x the original size…it was supposed to grow?!?)

But on the other hand, it’s certainly an idea worth considering, especially if you have a place to ultimately put it into the ground, a place where you and others can view it. I also appreciate the overall goal of making the end of life more meaningful, sustainable, and even more affordable than traditional burial and cremation options.

Very interested to see if this gets funded and how people respond to it. What do you think about it, too weird or kind of cool?

Choosing between Burial and Cremation

Neither is something one wants to really think about.  You don’t sit around with friends debating the pros and cons of each…or do you? It depends on your age, and thus your perspective.

When you get to be 70, or when you become gravely ill, it suddenly is something you have to think about.  

So how does one choose? It depends on your wishes, your ability to pay, possibly your religious beliefs, maybe your family’s desires. But there is another way to go about looking at both: the financial costs of each choice.

First, do you want a funeral set in a funeral home, with a traditional casket, perhaps a visitation period, and finally a burial in a cemetery?

A Complete Funeral and Burial
According to, the current cost for a funeral service and burial average:

•    Casket – $2,300
•    Funeral director’s basic services fee – $1,500
•    Embalming and body preparation – $600
•    Funeral ceremony and viewing – $1,000
•    Miscellaneous (hearse, death certificates, obituary, etc.) – $600
•    Grave space - $1000
•    Open/close fee - $1000
•    Headstone - $2000
•    Grave Marker - $1000

The above exceeds $10,000, which is a lot of money. The advantages of having a funeral home take care of everything is that it frees the family from what amounts to a lot of work to focus on each other in this time of mourning, and on planning the service, etc.   

If you still want to use a funeral home, but need to bring the cost down, you can consider cremation. This brings the cost down somewhat, but you are still paying for the director’s services, use of the funeral home, miscellaneous costs. And if the ashes are to be buried in a gravesite, those costs above remain, so the total tab is still going to be well over $6000.

A cheaper alternative is to donate your body to a local anatomical society, for use in training of doctors. They will pick up the body at no cost, order death certificates for the family, and return the ashes to the family after a year or more, when the body is no longer “teaching”. This costs nothing: $0.00. If you choose this alternative, you then have to think about what to do with the ashes. If you choose burial, then you will have the cost of the gravesite, open/close fee, headstone or grave marker: all of which adds up to $3000 or more. To find an anatomical society near you, go to

The least expensive way is to scatter the ashes in a place or places that have meaning to you: where you and your spouse met, where you always vacationed, a favorite place in nature. There are endless choices. I remember a particularly beautiful service on a beach for a friend who served as a fighter pilot in Vietnam. His friends and sons swam out in the ocean, and scattered the ashes as the lone man formation flew over. It was very moving.

Each of the above choices can make for a beautiful and memorable celebration of a life well lived. The choice comes down to what matters to you, and what you can afford