I grew up under an oak tree - a monster looming over our street. As a kid, I almost always had acorns rattling around in my pockets and my shoes, clogging up the washing machine, so it was no real surprise when, at 10, I penned a thrilling adventure tale about a kingdom with its own giant oak.
In the story, the king gave his son an acorn to wear around his neck on a gold chain, in case anything ever happened to the tree. (Like giant squirrels)
Nothing happened to our tree. The tree's still there. But Dad died when I was 18.
At the crematorium, I saw the necklace almost at once - a gold acorn on a gold chain. I'd read the story to Dad while he worked on old cars and bikes in the garage, the way I did most of my scribblings. It would have been forgotten had the fog behind my eyes not lifted for a moment, as I stared at that necklace, and a smiling woman told me I could put his ashes inside. I've worn it ever since.
But the choice isn't always so clear-cut. With more and more people now opting for cremation, our final resting place is no longer limited to an urn on the mantle.
Today, remains can be scattered to the wind or encased in gold, ground down into diamonds or turned into coral reefs. They can be mixed into paint for a portrait or ink for a tattoo, shot into the sky in a riot of fireworks, set into a vinyl record, blown in glass, repurposed as plant-food to grow a tree.
The list is only getting longer, says Annette Luck. She runs the office at Canberra's only crematorium, Norwood Park, greeting me with wonderfully toasty hands as I blow in with the cold wind.
"When I lost my dad, I was very young, and it was all still morbid and black," she says.
"You were buried, or interred with a plaque somewhere. Now there are so many options."
She moves aside two beautiful brass urns on the shelf, instead picking up what looks like a papier-mache turtle.
"He's biodegradable so you can set him out to water and it will all dissolve around the ashes," she says. "We had a family recently, their little boy had loved turtles."
For Canberra mum Carmen Bartley, an urn never felt right. She had spent five weeks in hospital, watching her baby son Logan struggle in a tangle of life support machines, as the doctors said frightening words and her arms ached to pick him up. Now there was only the small grey box, cold and sterile on the shelf, in the part of the house her guests now avoided.
She tried dressing it up in Logan's clothes, wrapping it in a blanket and placing it in his old bassinet.
It didn't help. There was nothing to hold.
"When we took him off life support, and I could finally cuddle him, I was convinced that would bring him back, that I'd bring him close and he'd breathe again because he just needed Mum," she says.
"I didn't think he'd actually die."
More than a decade on, the need to hold Logan hadn't faded and so last year, as Carmen was building toys with her husband Barry and their combined brood of five kids, the idea came.
"Barry said, 'Why don't you build a teddy for Logan and put his ashes inside?'. So we did, us and the kids, we picked a Spiderman bear, and now we can all cuddle him," she says.
The kids know that's their big brother Logan up on the shelf. He's become part of the household again.Carmen Bartley
"The night before Mother's Day I curled up with him in bed and fell fast asleep."
Over the border, Craig Hull helps Australians let go of ashes - by sending them up in fireworks.
He was dangling in the air when he got the idea, performing as an acrobat in the opening ceremony of the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney.
His friend, a sportsman, had passed away from a terminal illness and before he died, he'd asked for his ashes to be scattered in the stadium. Craig had immediately offered to release him during the ceremony. But, as he twisted in the air, the lights and the noise flared.
"Everything went into slow motion, like a car crash, when you know something's about to happen," he says.
I remember his ashes blurred my vision and I just got the most euphoric feeling.Craig Hull
Years later, while brooding over what to do with the ashes of his two beloved dogs, Craig remembered that moment in the noise and the colour of the ceremony, with his friend's ashes still shining in the air. He applied to become a pyrotechnician, and eventually sent his dogs up into the sky one New Years' Eve.
"I felt the same euphoria and I thought this sort of thing should be available to everyone," he says.
He now runs Ashes to Ashes, creating memorial firework displays for clients across Australia. Craig does everything from organising funerals and cremations, to haggling with local councils and insurers over permits. And often, when a family is in need, he shaves down the price.
"We had one family near Canberra, the grandma had passed and the two kids were both going blind at the same time," he says. "They didn't have much money. During the fireworks, their mother came up to me and said, 'This is probably one of the last things my kids will see, they'll see their grandma'. It still gives me goosebumps thinking of it. This job has given me a lot. When it comes time to blow myself up, I'll be taking a lot with me.
"But who knows? It might be a fizzer."
Down on the ground, Swiss company Lonite turns ashes into diamonds.
At its Australian headquarters in Sydney, Marie Butler-Cole explains the whole process usually takes about nine months. Carbon is extracted from a loved ones' remains or hair and crystalised under intense pressure and blistering temperatures in the lab.
"The technology has existed for a while now, but it hasn't taken off until quite recently," she says. While the diamonds have no commercial value, their sentimental worth is immeasurable.
"People are so excited when they come in," Butler-Cole says.
"When I started this job, I didn't realise people would trust me to personally measure and move the ashes. It's such a personal thing, being entrusted with that person."
Brock Westrip promised his dad they would ride up Route 66 together on their motorbikes, travelling through Tombstone, Arizona and the old Civil War sites of Virginia.
But his father, Roy, died just a few months later. So this year, when Brock packed up his life in Canberra and moved to the US, he brought Roy's ashes with him.
"Dad was a real rocker, he was buried in his motorbike gear, even his helmet," he says.
"He and his friend would work on bikes all day and night, building and rebuilding them, racing them and getting chased by the police on them."
While Roy tried to keep Brock away from the machines himself, his son eventually got his hands on a bike, and from then on, the pair spent long nights in the garage fixing up their collection.
Now, Brock has a plan to keep his promise - mixing some of his father's ashes into a brake fluid reserve mounted to his bike. "That way we can still ride America together and I will take him to all the places I promised him," he says.
Writer Marieke Hardy believes in the power of ritual and symbolism in grief. When she lost her beloved dog of 14 years, Bob Ellis, she had the Staffy's ashes inked into her forearm - in a tattoo inspired by a well-loved New Yorker cartoon of a woman and her dog.
"The artist modified [the design] so it's really me and my BooBoo," she says. "It's on my forearm so I can give her a smooch whenever I'm missing her."
Hardy admits the idea makes people squeamish, but experts say the process is hygienic - if undertaken through a reputable artist - given the high temperatures of cremation.
"She used to follow me everywhere, so I'd been carrying her ashes around with me for months," Hardy says. "She'd been to Dark Mofo [in Tasmania] and Brisbane festival."
It seemed like the perfect way to keep her with me. I mixed the ashes into the ink myself.Marieke Hardy
"Some people are really horrified by it, or they'll say 'It's just a dog, get over it'. But when she left I realised it was the longest I'd ever shared a bed with someone.
"You know, she was a Staffy, we'd spoon. She'd start at the foot and end up under the covers with her head on the pillow or her butt in my face. I don't plan to ever have children and I really miss that space and that shape she took up for 14 years."
In New York, artist Heide Hatry aims to reopen that space in the lives of grieving families - creating intimate memorial portraits using the subjects' ashes in mosaic.
A millennia ago, the art of portraiture developed precisely to keep the dead among us, she says.
"When my father died, now many years ago, I was distraught," she says. Years later, the sudden suicide of a friend brought death again to Heide's door - but with it a revelation.
"I already felt a strange calm the moment I thought, 'I have to make portraits out of [their] ashes'," she says.
In the modern era, we have banished death from our lives. We cannot bear to look it in the face.Heide Hatry
Her portraits are more than just mosaic - they are literally part of the person they depict. Some clients compare them to holy relics.
But, to others, such mementos seem morbid, breaches of the cultural silence that surrounds death. That often makes it hard for people like Carmen Bartley to share the stories - and the people - behind them.
The Canberra mum says she finds it difficult to answer even the innocent question: "How many kids do you have?".
"People get very uncomfortable as soon as you're honest," she says. "But it actually hurts us more not to talk about them. They existed."
Hardy agrees we need to get better at talking about grief. "Making gentle space for someone's pain is the finest thing we can do for each other," she says.
She stops to offer me condolences. In a strange, heartbreaking coincidence, my uncle died as I was writing this story. We had him cremated. But the decision of what to do with his ashes is still ahead for my mum, my sister and I.
"The things we make, the candles we light, the words we say, it's all part of how we survive it," Hardy tells me.
"We can use all the help we can get."