SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – A Santa Fe start-up is changing the way we think of death, creating a new alternative to receiving ashes after a loved one dies. The company Parting Stone partnered with Los Alamos National Lab to develop a new technology to offer people something different.
When faced with the loss of his grandfather, Justin Crowe looked at how others went through the grieving process. He noticed things were a little different for those who had a loved one cremated.
“After he died, I started to look at how other people were dealing with loss,” said Crowe. “I found that everyone was keeping cremated remains in their closet, their basement or their garage, and I thought that was a really tragic, really tragic thing.”
An artist, Crowe started thinking of a way to create a new form of human remains that you can easily touch, hold and share among loved ones. The solution was solidified remains.
“I came up with the stone concept because I realized ashes were really gross and messy and uncomfortable and they started to feel kind of meaningless in people’s lives,” said Crowe. “I wanted to create a new form of human remains that was something you could touch and hold and be intimate with.”
Crowe received a grant to work with top scientists at Los Alamos National Lab to create the technology needed, something he says he’s grateful to have started here in New Mexico. They headed to the lab and started the solidification process of transforming ashes into stones.
“When we receive an order, we send out a collection kit to the customer to retrieve their ashes and get them shipped safely to the Parting Stone lab, and once the ashes arrive the first thing we do is purify them,” said Crowe. “We filter out contaminants like staples, screws and medical implants, and then, we turn that ash into a clay-like material. The whole process looks a lot like ceramics.”
The stones are then crafted, fired and polished before they are returned to loved ones as solidified remains. The only service of its kind at the moment, it’s already becoming an option in funeral homes across the country for those choosing cremation.
“This is the first-ever alternative to receiving ashes following cremation,” said Crowe. “In funeral homes, this is being presented when you walk in and say you’d like to choose cremation. Funeral directors will say you have two options for receiving remains, you can receive ashes or you can receive stones. My dream for this technology is that it really becomes the preferred option for people who are choosing cremation.”
Before its public launch this week, Parting Stone tried the service in a test market. One customer, who lost his father and had the remains hidden away in a drawer, says it’s more meaningful to have them now in his daily life.
“I’ve always loved the idea of having objects that are in my daily life,” said Trevor Bahnson. “I travel a lot for work so it’s nice to have small things that I can carry with me.”
Crowe says the feedback has been powerful so far. He hopes by offering this new technology, it will make cremation more comfortable for those grieving.
“I didn’t realize quite the impact we were going to have on people’s lives, but we’ve received letters that said, ‘I never wanted to live with the remains of my son, but when we receive the solidified remains, I can now live with them and interact with them,'” said Crowe. “Almost every one of our customers say they share the stones with family and friends. It allows every single person to have a meaningful remembering experience, whereas before, it was really uncomfortable to take spoonfuls of ash in little bags. Now, you can just distribute these beautiful stones to everyone who is meaningful to that person.”
Crowe hopes Parting Stone will serve as a source of healing for loved ones.
“With solidified remains, cremation and receiving the remains of your loved one really becomes this platform for healing and growth and engagement and community,” said Crowe. “That’s really what we’re trying to do as a company.”
While most stones come out white or with a blue or green hue, some have come out chocolate brown, honey or even lavender. The company is still trying to figure out why.
“We’re doing some research on that now and with each order and process we’re learning more about why that happens,” said Crowe. “Right now, we think it’s because of medical implants.”
Once the lab receives the ashes, the entire process takes about three weeks to complete. A 100-pound person would produce around 25 stones. The company also solidifies the cremated remains of family pets. The service costs $595 for human remains, $395 for dogs and $295 for cats.