Whether you've lost a loved one, buried a family pet or had a near-death experience, death is simply a fact of life. And, as it turns out, the business of death can be quite lucrative.
From afterlife preparations to unique burial methods and memorials, it turns out that there are more businesses related to death than you might expect. Here are 10 businesses that are cashing in on the dearly departed.
Just because you're no longer alive doesn't mean your tattoos can't live on. The National Association for the Preservation of Skin Art (NAPSA) hosts a website called Save My Ink, which is dedicaed to preserving tattoos of the deceased and leaving them in the care of their next of kin.
The tattoo preservation community isn't just for the recently deceased; the living are so interested in the process that NAPSA is retooling to offer their services directly through funeral homes. The move comes just in time, as Americans are getting record number of tattoos. Will the future homes of millennials be commonly decorated with the ink once worn by their loved ones?
Murder scene maids
You've heard the expression, "There's no use crying over spilled milk," but what's the consensus on spilled blood? If the idea of mopping up gore makes your eyes water (or worse), don't worry: There's a business you can call to tidy up even the bloodiest of messes.
Baxter Restoration, a cleaning and reconstruction company in Orlando, Florida, does something your average maid won't: It cleans up after the Grim Reaper. Whether it's a crime scene, the aftermath of a suicide or the remains of an exploded meth lab, Baxter will disinfect, decontaminate and leave things looking less macabre.
Industry insiders refer to such sluicing down of blood and brains as "biohazard" cleanup. And while this unusual service makes some people squirm, it's reassuring to know that there's someone you can call to perform this most unpleasant of chores.
An afterlife app
Leaving behind a hefty inheritance for family members to squabble over is a nice gesture. But what if you want to bequeath something more meaningful than money? There's an app for that.
Your Last Will is an iPhone app developed by former video game publisher and entrepreneur Wolfgang Gabler. The app lets users prepare for the afterlife by recording a short video with a final message for those they'll one day leave behind. Whatever your final words are, the app lets you record them in a 5-minute video, which is then uploaded to the company's servers.
Your Last Will then generates a QR code for you to share with a trusted confidant who can sign in to your account after your demise and distribute your video to friends, family, archenemies, old flings and whomever else you choose to haunt. You can even make your will public and inspire (or sadden) the entire Internet.
A company that lets you send messages from beyond the grave is one thing, but a business that facilitates the sending of messages directly from your grave is quite another.
Invented and patented by Robert Barrows, president of an advertising and public relations firm in California, the "video-enhanced grave marker" is a tombstone for the modern age. Embedded with a remote-controlled video screen, this high-tech memorial caters to those unwilling to go quietly into the hereafter.
As Barrows explains on his website, the invention allows people to record messages for family, friends and even complete strangers before dying. Once the person is 6 feet under, these messages are broadcast right in the cemetery. Mourners can just sit back, relax and enjoy the show!
Barrows envisions a future in which graveyard visitors will pay a fee (headset included) to wander from grave to grave, listening to the dark secrets and final advice of lost love ones, as well as dead strangers.
Sure, you eat organic apples and have sworn off plastic shopping bags, but will your green lifestyle die when you do? That's the question this next business wants you to consider before it's too late.
The Natural Burial Company is an online retail and consulting business that sells biodegradable coffins, caskets, urns and other funeral goodies for eco-conscious mortals. The business aims to facilitate the natural burial process for those who take the whole "dust to dust" thing literally.
To that end, the company sells goods like the "Everybody" Coffin Kit, a biodegradable cork coffin that you can put together in your living room. Talk about a fun do-it-yourself project! The company's online retail store also features a line of products for pets, including a biodegradable urn in the shape of a yarn ball for the eco-minded (but aging) feline in your life.
Carbon-free cremation services
If you want to be cremated but aren't sold on the idea of being hoisted onto a conveyor belt and pushed into a giant oven, then this next business is for you. Anderson McQueen Funeral Home in St. Petersburg, Florida, specializes in a new kind of cremation that utilizes water, not fire, to dispose of human bodies.
The process is known as alkali hydrolysis, or "flameless cremation." And while it sounds less scary than its fiery cousin, the end result is much the same. In this process, the body is soaked in a tub of water and alkali for a few hours. According to the company, the process results in 75 percent fewer carbon emissions than traditional cremation, and is marketed to those looking for a greener way to go.
The process is still in the early adoption phase and is only legal in a few states. However, legislation is pending in many states that could bring this bizarre alternative into the mainstream.
Lots of people want their ashes scattered across the surface of the sea, but those looking for a unique postmortem experience may want to consider permanently joining the seafloor instead.
Decatur, Georgia-based Eternal Reefs specializes in the construction of "memorial reefs." The company mixes human remains into concrete, artificial reefs. The reefs are then lowered to the seafloor, where they play host to local sea life and help maintain marine diversity.
The company's "reef balls" are designed to withstand even the strongest of ocean currents, so mourners don't have to worry that a loved one's remains will drift into unchartered waters. Each reef also features a bronze plaque bearing the name of the deceased person it's made from, making this memorial much like an underwater tombstone.
If the deep blue sea isn't your thing, you might want to consider sending your remains into deep space instead. Celestis, a company offering "memorial spaceflight services," launches human remains into the dark corners of the universe.
Celestis' Voyager Service, scheduled to launch for the first time in 2015, isn't exactly the cheapest way to memorialize a loved one, but it might be the strangest. For $12,500, the company will strap 1 gram of the departed's remains onto a spacecraft and launch it into outer space. Or, if you'd like to know just where your loved one is headed, you can opt for the company's Luna Service, which rockets human remains directly to the surface of the moon.
For those with smaller budgets, Celestis' Earth Rise Service (starting at $1,295) launches human remains into outer space for just a few minutes. After floating in zero gravity, your loved one will drift back down to Earth, where you'll be reunited with their space-traveling remains.
Posthumous memory delivery service
Losing a loved one is difficult, no matter how you spin it. But Immortum, a virtual "memory box" service, tries to make the pain of death more bearable for those left behind.
By recording the memories of the elderly and those with terminal illnesses on audio and video, Immortum helps people remember their loved ones, even after they have died.
Immortum customers can specify when they want their "postlife chronicles" delivered to loved ones, be it immediately following their deaths, several months after or 50 years later.
The company also offers a free, Web-based version of its "postlife chronicles" service, as well as free e-tributes and digital obituaries.
Maker of wearable human remains
Why leave the remains of a loved one in an urn, gathering dust, when you can wear them around your neck instead? Purple Cloud Studio in Land O' Lakes, Florida, and Philadelphia-based Grateful Glass, both create custom keepsakes using the ashes of beloved family members and pets.
The artists behind these studios ask clients to send cremated remains, which they then seal in glass pendants, bowls and paperweights.
Additional reporting by Adam C. Uzialko and Brittney Helmrich.