By David White
There is an alternative to taking care of a loved ones cremated remains. While the funeral home industry may seem like it is unaffected by technological changes, it is changing with the time. The family-owned Harrell Funeral Homes of Hays and Travis counties is taking the lead on a couple of innovations that provide families with alternatives
According to the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) released in 2020, the cremation rate is up to 56%, an 8.1% increase from 2015. The national burial rate has decreased 7.7% from 2015 to just 37.5%. According to Jason Harrell, owner of Harrell Funeral Homes, “Many factors are contributing to the rise in cremation: it costs less than burial; has a lower environmental impact; provides more flexibility in memorializing; people are not as religious or tied to traditions, and society is becoming increasingly mobile.”
In an effort to keep up with the wishes of families, the funeral home has recently started offering solidified remains in the form of Parting Stones or diamonds.
Harrell partners with a death tech company called Parting Stone to make the stones. According to Starlyn Aurit, Marketing Director for Harrell Funeral Homes, “Parting Stone is a fast-growing startup that uses an environmentally friendly solidification process that turns ashes into clean, stone-like solidified remains that resemble a collection of polished stones. The average person’s remains results in about 40 to 60 stones ranging in size from thumbnail up to palm-size.” The color of each person’s solidified remains is 100% natural. Most of the stones are white, but some are a blue or green hue or some other variation.
According to founder and CEO of Parting Stone, Justin Crowe, conventional ashes can be messy and even dangerous to hold because of sharp edges within the ashes. “It is a profound opportunity to leive the the remains of our loved ones, but conventional cremated remains make the experience uncomfortable. We developed an alternative to traditional cremated remains to help families feel a meaningful connection with their departed,” Crowe says. Aurit adds that families find that the stones are easy to share with family members and friends and provide a clean and predictable scatter experience, and it’s less complicated traveling through airport security.
The other option is “growing” a diamond. Harrell is partnering with a company called Eterneva, and according to Aurit, they use “cremated remains or hair to create lab-grown diamonds. The remains serve as a carbon source to fashion a diamond over eight months. In a high-tech lab, heat, pressure, and carbon combine to simulate the earth’s same conditions to produce a diamond. Eterneva grades and engraves each diamond and sends it through a coloration process if the customer wants a specific color.”
Harrell Funeral Home shared the following testimonial from one of their customers.
“My children Megan and Matt were the love of our lives that we tragically lost to substance abuse disorder, a brain disease. I am grateful to both Harrell Funeral Home and Eterneva for helping us through an unimaginable time. From the first call, everyone put me at ease and held my hand through the entire experience. Both companies were compassionate, genuine, and went the extra mile to turn a heartbreaking situation into a beautiful way to celebrate my amazing children. I share Matt & Megan’s story to help break the stigma of addiction, and creating the diamond through Eterneva really helped open the door for people to talk about my children and keep their memory alive. I hope sharing their story and their diamonds will bring light to help others to get the support they need and know that it is okay to get help – it’s a sign of strength, not weakness.”