Cannon Wanted for Thompson's Bang-Up Salute

It should be noted that while Thompson was often identified as a hero of the left, he often savaged Democrats, including President Clinton. "It's almost embarrassing to talk about Clinton as if he were important," Thompson wrote. "I'd almost prefer Nixon. I'd say Clinton is every bit as corrupt as Nixon, but a lot smoother."

The humor in Thompson's overboard style might have been lost because of his sad end. Nothing is funny about suicide. Still, many writers, including Ernest Hemingway, one of Thompson's heroes, have also taken their own lives -- and their work is no less revered.

Perhaps that's one reason why Thompson's loved ones plan to follow through on his final request.

"If it can be done, we will do it," said Thompson's longtime lawyer, George Tobia Jr. "Maybe it will be part of a public thing, or maybe one night a shot will ring out and people will know."

But as the call for a cannon goes out, it should be noted that Thompson's requests aren't that far out of line with the times.

Cremation, now the funeral choice of 26 percent of Americans, has been steadily gaining on traditional burial for three decades.

Human ashes are largely stored in urns. But a growing number of companies are offering spectacular services. Cremated remains are now being mixed with fireworks, blasted into space and even crushed into diamonds.

Surely Thompson would approve of these gonzo practices, and if the family can't find a suitable cannon, they may wish to consider one of these ash alternatives:

1. A Flare for Drama: If you're ready to go out in a blaze of glory, several companies will mix your ashes with an assortment of fireworks. For $3,500, Angels Flight of Castaic, Calif., will put on a beachside funeral service filled with snap, crackle and pop.

For an even greater high, the Florida-based Eternal Ascent Society scatters human remains in high-altitude balloons. For packages ranging from $1,000 to $2,000, you get a 5-foot-wide, biodegradable balloon filled with helium that will soar 30,000 feet in the sky. Once reaching that altitude, the balloon will freeze and burst, scattering the ashes of your loved one.

2. Wearable Cremations That Sparkle: If you think your spouse is a real gem now, a funeral service in Illinois is ready to turn your loved one's ashes into diamonds that you can wear as jewelry.

"The Wolf Files" originally reported on LifeGem in 2003, when the company transformed the cremated remains of a 27-year-old woman from Phoenix -- its first human client --into six sparkling stones. The company has now taken more than 300 orders, and the service is available through 482 funeral parlors throughout the United States as well as Canada, Australia and Britain.

A .29-carat gem made from your loved one's ashes costs less than $2,500. It will have "the same brilliance, fire, and hardness as any high-quality diamond you may find at Tiffany's," according to company literature.

Just remember one thing: Before you're tempted to rush an unwanted relative off to the diamond factory, just remember that a laboratory-made diamond still costs more than natural ones.

3. Eternal Shelf Life as a Knickknack: Now, you can rest in piece, and on someone's desk. Crystal Eternity of California handcrafts molten glass mixed with human ashes for a one-of-a-kind, 3-inch sphere that is mounted on a silver base with an engraved plaque bearing the person's name.

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