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Joan and Clyde West conceived their novel new business over a somber dinner discussion. “Clyde said, ‘I don’t want to be buried. Just put my remains in a balloon and send it on up,'” Joan recalls.

In January, the Crystal River, Fla., couple launched the Eternal Ascent Society, offering burial “flights” to the grieving. After a funeral home cremates the remains, Clyde pours them into a helium balloon encased in a custom-made Plexiglas-and-vinyl carrier. Then it’s off to the wild blue yonder, all for about $150 (flowers and photos cost extra). A black cat, Midnight, made the charter trip.

The Wests reached a milestone in March when, says Joan, “we did our first human.” Mourners gathered with the Wests to honor a middle-aged woman’s final request: a flight to heaven in a big yellow balloon. “When you see the balloon go up, and the sun is shining, it will bring tears to your eyes,” Joan West says.

Of course, others would like to burst the Wests’ bubble. An unamused Maureen Hearn, of the Defenders of Wildlife, says balloon fragments could choke animals: “What goes up invariably does come down — and what comes down is killing dolphins, sea turtles, and probably other animals as well.”

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

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