From the “Only in the South” files via NPR….
When a loved one dies and is cremated, family members face a tough decision on what do with the ashes. Some want the final resting place to be spectacular — spread in the Grand Canyon, launched into space, sprinkled in Times Square; others just keep Aunt Jane’s remains in an urn at home.
“The ashes get put on the mantel, stay there for a couple of years, and then a couple of years later, they get put in the attic,” says Thad Holmes. “A few years later, the house gets sold and, ‘Oh gosh, we forgot the ashes!'”
Holmes, a conservation enforcement officer in Alabama, and his buddy Clem Parnell, came up with an unusual way to honor the dead. Their company, Holy Smoke, takes your loved one’s ashes and turns them into ammunition.
The idea was born one night when Holmes and Parnell were working the late shift, talking about how they wanted to be buried. Holmes said he wanted to be cremated, sprinkled on a nearby lake. His partner had another idea.
“I want my ashes placed into some good turkey-load shotgun shells,” Parnell said. That way, someone could go kill a turkey with him, Holmes tells Robert Smith, host of weekends on All Things Considered.
“He could rest in peace, knowing that one more turkey, the last thing he saw, was Clem screaming at him at 900 feet per second.”
Holmes’ first reaction when he heard his friend? “He just expressed what I’d like to do with my ashes.”
Holmes says his company’s services begin after the funeral. They take the ashes that are sent to them, put them into the requested shells, then ship the ammunition back to the sender. Their biggest concern, he says, is handling the ashes sensitively.
“We want people to understand that each shipment of ash is handled with utmost care,” he says. “So it’s not a simple process, you just going out, finding somebody that can go, ‘Here, I’ll throw ’em in there.’ It just doesn’t work like that.”
Holy Smoke, which has been in business for a couple months, charges $850 for a case of shells. The company has shipped out two orders. The feedback, Holmes says, is positive.