Scattering a loved one’s ashes in water is apparently a thing of the past. At least, as far as pets in Sydney are concerned. Ashes to Ashes, a service run by trained circus performer and pyrotechnician Craig Hull, allows people to part with their pet’s ashes with a bang – sending them up in the air as fireworks, descending onto the waters of Sydney Harbor as their final resting place.
Hull first came up with the idea for Ashes to Ashes when his two beloved dogs died three years ago – Zeus, a German shepherd-akita cross and Gyprock, a white lab-cattle dog cross. They left a big hole in the performer’s life that he felt could be filled only with a big gesture of love. Having already scattered the ashes of a dear friend during an aerial routine at the opening ceremony of one of the Olympics (he won’t say which one), he wanted to give his dogs something even more spectacular. “I thought I’ll get a job as a pyrotechnician and I’ll send them up in fireworks. So I did,” says Hull. The event finally occurred on Sydney’s New Year’s Eve fireworks display in 2010. Hull says that he had a “vision of color and light” as his dogs’ ashes were fired into the skies that night, as opposed to the “sad memory of scattering them into the water.” “To be able to scatter someone’s ashes like that, scatter them over a huge area in the air was incredible. To be able to look up to the heavens when you send your loved ones off is a pretty amazing feeling. And I thought this is so amazing, other people should be able to experience this as well,” says Hull.
Photo: Ashes to Ashes
Hull’s first customer was his long-time friend, Warren Blackwell. Blackwell had held on to the ashes of his dog Gypsy for eight long years, never having found the right occasion or place to celebrate her life as he gave her up. Gypsy, a smart and loyal Staffordshire bull terrier was only four years old when she was hit by a car. The incident occurred when Blackwell had just moved to the city from the countryside. “I’ve never been able to part with them (the ashes), I’ve never been able to come up with anything that was suitable to do with them that would make me happy,” he says. He never wanted to do something that was about her death, but instead something that was all about her life. So things changed for Blackwell when Hull came to him with the idea of Ashes to Ashes. “When Craig suggested this I said ‘mate I want to be the first cab off the rack’. I’ve seen the shell, and I’ve seen her go into the tube over there, she’s over there waiting. I know she’s going to make a loud bang, that much I’m sure of.” On Gypsy’s final day on Earth, a modest crowd gathered under a eucalyptus tree to say their goodbyes, as sprays of gold, silver and blue erupted into the night sky.
Photo: Ashes to Ashes
Ashes to Ashes helps people all over Sydney get over the grief of losing their beloved pets in a manner that celebrates life. For A$950 (that’s about US$990), the service will send up the pet’s ashes in a fireworks display complete with soundtrack, catering and a bar.” The animals are done in groups of four, and Hull says that pet owners like to show each other photos of their dogs, sharing their memories. He wants to give the same opportunity to humans in solo shows (at A$4,800), but no one has taken up the offer so far. Hull agrees that, “it’s not everyone’s cup of tea but I believe it will become a common thing one day.” Hull is so confident that his idea will become popular someday, he’s even investigating the possibility of sending ashes into outer space. “People are so creative they’ll want lots of different things; they’ll want to be spread over four different cities simultaneously, to the second.” Perhaps, soon enough, gone will be the days when pets were buried in shoe boxes in the backyard, and humans in graveyards.