Macabre memorial or beautiful remembrance?

This story, via BoingBoing, describes funerary art made from the ashes of people who have died:

Artist Val Thompson creates commissioned paintings incorporating the ashes of people who have died, as memorials for their surviving loved ones. Above is a beach scene that Thompson painted for Anne Kearney, using some of her husband John’s ashes mixed into the paint. It depicts the couple’s last vacation together. From Sky:

(Kearney) was so pleased with the results that Ms Thompson did three more paintings for her before starting up her new business ‘Ash 2 Art’.

“My brother and I did a bit of research on the internet and discovered nobody else is providing this sort of service,” she said.

Val Thompson’s Ash2Art
Brush With Death: Painter Uses Ashes For Art(Sky)
Widow uses dead husband’s ashes for painting(Telegraph)

The BoingBoing article reminds me of one of my favorite pieces in InTheFray Magazine, Journal of the Ladybug, By Birgitta Jonsdottir. The article chronicles Birgitta’s adventures in dealing with her mother’s ashes: poignant, comical; heart-touching:

Photo courtesy Birgitta Jonsdottir


The boyfriend didn’t want to have a wake for my mother nor did he want to take part in her funeral in Iceland. He decided to save some money on the shipment of my mother’s ashes. Instead of sending her earthly remains  the way they are usually are sent, via plane in a sturdy, solid box, he sent my mother’s remains the inexpensive way, via regular mail. He placed the box with the urn in a bigger box and wrapped some newspapers around it. When the ashes arrived the contents of the box rattled a bit.

My mother had specifically asked for being scattered into the river my father walked into. My brother and I thought that was too depressing. We wanted to have a grave at last to visit; visiting her at our father’s suicide point just didn’t feel right, despite the beautiful landscape. My grandmother wanted to honor my mother’s last wishes and so there was a rift in the family about this. Being a chronic diplomat at times like this I got a brilliant yet illegal idea: split the ashes. Put some in the old graveyard next to her brother and her father, and some shall be scattered in the cold river to be united with the spirit of our  father. In Iceland the laws say that ashes must either be scattered in one place or buried. So after all it was good she came in regular mail, so we could do whatever we felt was right.

Read the article here, you might find it disturbing, you might find it beautiful.

Also check out the:
Photo essay
Song lyrics, a translation into English of the Icelandic poem Frændi þegar fiðlan þegir.
YouTube video
Birgitta Jonsdottir Website

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