Across centuries and cultures, human beings have felt the need to remember loved ones after death. This longing has taken many forms, from large monuments to treasured pieces of jewelry.
Full Circle Memory Beads continues the tradition with the creation of glass beads incorporating the cremated ashes of loved ones.
“The reaction to the beads has been overwhelming. A lot of people have ashes but don’t know what to do with them. They instinctively feel a need to do something special,” said Melanie Anderson, creator and owner with husband Adam Smith, of Full Circle Memory Beads.
“So many people tell me that they wish they had known about something like this before. It may take a long time, years, to decide what to do with ashes, but people know when the time is right for them.”
The memory beads came from Anderson’s background in art — she has glass jewelry in the Vernon Public Art Gallery shop and in Banff stores. Smith brings his artistic sensibility as a chef to the lamp work used to create the beads.
Lamp work consists of melting glass over a flame until it is the consistency of thick honey, then shaping it and adding the ashes as a design element.
“People tell us that they feel comforted to have their loved one with them in this way, as a pendant, earrings, keychain, as a light catcher in a window, or in other ways that are meaningful to them,” said Anderson.
“It is amazing that people trust me to do that for them. It’s a huge responsibility and I approach each piece with respect and reverence for the importance of the life that is represented. I like to hear the stories about the people and pets.”
She does beads for both people and pets and emphasizes that while human and pet deaths can in no way be compared, both are difficult losses in different ways.
Many people get several beads made so that all family members and close friends can have one.
“People find that others will comment on the beads they are wearing and it is a way to talk about loved ones, which is often difficult. People still want to talk about those they have lost,” said Anderson.
She said that while people may want to have a memory bead made, it can be difficult to take the first step of looking at the ashes. It takes about one tablespoon of ashes to make a bead.
“People tell me it can be healing to look at the ashes but if they don’t want to do this themselves, they can ask a funeral home or a friend to do it. I feel honoured to be able to help a friend in this intimate way.”
People also use the memory beads in other ways, for the ashes from a home that has burned down, a mortgage burning, or the ashes from the last cigarette smoked to show commitment.
Anderson makes the beads in a variety of styles, such as a large marble on a stand and custom work. She encourages family members who want memory beads to talk together and to choose different styles according to how they want to use the beads.
“People tell me that they find it fascinating that this can be done and even if they don’t need it at a particular time, they might want it later on and they tell friends about it. It is very special for me to be able to do this,” said Anderson.
For more information, see fullcirclememorybeads.com.