By Elias Tan
Grandpa used to be a fine gentleman.
Now, he is a fine piece of crystal-clear jewellery encased in a glass container for his grandchildren and their predecessors to remember. Forever.
Grandpa can also be worn as cosmetic jewellery. But it is best to keep him at home and passed down as an exquisite piece of family heirloom.
An alternative to traditional burial methods, death beads or heirloom gemstones are all the rage in countries where the living are occupying more land than ever, leaving less and less room for the dead.
These beads are typically kept in glass containers and are meant to be a decorative way to keep loved ones around. There is nothing haunting about them.
The process of transforming ashes and bones to beads costs S$1,141.86 and it is a one-time cost.
As of now, Ang Chin Moh Caskets is the only undertaker that offers this service. Ang Ziqian, Ang Chin Moh’s director, says: “There are many advantages in cremation and memorialisation that can bring about “green” initiatives and convenience. The first one, of course, is not competing for land use in countries or cities where land space is a premium.
“In Singapore, [cremation and memorialisation] will take away the hassle of the need to travel far distances to cemeteries, getting trapped in traffic jams, frayed tempers in car parks and the heat and humidity during the annual Ching Ming festival.”
Another alternative and eco-friendly method to traditional burial methods is to opt for biodegradable urns that will eventually grow into trees – a move that is also in line with the Singapore Government’s aim to transform Singapore into a green and clean city.
However, Singaporeans, especially older Singaporeans, might take longer to come around to the phenomenon, given that most of them are bound by customary practices and beliefs.
Throughout the last decade, competition for burial space has resulted in the Choa Chu Kang cemetery being the only cemetery in Singapore open for burials. And under the current burial policy, bodies have to be exhumed after 15 years’ to free up space. Empty crypts are left vacant for three years before they are re-used.
For religions that forbid cremation, the deceased will be re-interred in a crypt along with seven others.
“We need to unshackle the mind to get [Singapore] society to accept the fact that changes are inevitable,” says Ang. “If one believes that after death the soul departs the body, then the body is just a receptacle for the soul. For as long as we treat the deceased with care, compassion and dignity in the way we send them off on their final journey, I think society can accept change.”