A few months ago I blogged about a book I read (GRAVE MATTERS) which dealt with traditional burial rites, embalming, expensive caskets and vaults, rules and regulations in cemeteries et.al. The book triggered a response in my thinking.
I have always felt that the traditional sorts of funeral rites are not for me when I go to meet my Maker. I was most interested in obtaining a plain pioneer-type of pine wood box (casket) and being buried quickly without being embalmed….that… or being cremated and having my ashes scattered where I instruct my children to do so. (one of my cousins did that and had his ashes scattered around his favorite thinking tree on the farm where he was born and raised.)
Reading GRAVE MATTERS encouraged me and allowed me to think deeply about contacting some local mortuaries and discussing this type of simple burial I want as contrasted with the traditional ones we see all the time.
Now an article from the Minneapolis STAR-TRIB has been forwarded to me by a reader who only wants to be identified as a “backward North Dakota Farmer”….so I will respect that wish by the one who sent me the article.
The Star-Trib writer, Jeff Strickler titles his news report “Dust to dust, with zero carbon footprint” and in it describes the movement that is developing all over the nation—and even in the staid Midwest as close as our neighbor Wisconsin…for what is called a Green Burial. This type of burial uses a simple wooden casket or even a plain cloth shroud or a favorite blanket for the burial of the deceased person. There is no concrete vault but rather an optional “bottomless vault” where these type of things are required in a public cemetery. The reason for vaults is to keep the ground from caving in over a grave…which is the natural way things happen. As the body and the wooden casket decay and collapse, the ground becomes concave and that makes mowing a public cemetery a bit more difficult. Some cemeteries are offering this type of natural (green) burial, but suggest burial in a special place in the cemetery where vaults are not used and the graves will become concave. One Mower and Tender of cemeteries said it would be simple just to fill in extra earth over collapsed graves and add grass seed to the extra dirt. It sounds sensible to me. I would like to be buried that way, if I were not cremated. I have not totally made up my mind about how I will be interred…whole body or ashes of my body.
I am definitely ready to have my talk with a funeral director/mortician about my wishes. The article in the Star-Trib also made mention of the change in Minnesota laws that do not require a body to be embalmed any longer and that interested me enough that I plan to check it out further so I know what the law says exactly.
After reading the chapter in GRAVE MATTERS that dealt with embalming, I know I do not want that to be done to my body. It is positively barbaric!!! Plus, the embalming fluids…strong chemicals that are poisonous, are released into public sewer systems along with the blood that is drained out of the corpse. That part horrified me when I think of the implications to the ground water, at some point…..polluted with embalming fluids that are poisonous. It is not ecologically wise at all!!!
The article also said that funeral directors in the Twin Cities area are getting calls from many “clients” who want a green burial or if not a totally green one…at least what can be called a “natural burial”….no embalming, simple degradable wooden coffin, no concrete vault. One of those contacted by people interested in more natural burials said that he thinks such burials will become very common in 10-15 years as the Baby Boomers consider what to do with their funerals and burials. The Boomers are going for the traditional rites and burials for their dying parents but will want something entirely different for themselves later. Many natural burial enthusiasts do not even want wood from rare rain forests used in coffins either…they consider that an environmental transgression. The more common woods like pine or cedar would be more preferable.
Another appealing quality of green/natural burials is that they are not as costly (the funeral directors might buck at that factor!) Without embalming and a costly casket, the cost would be reduced.
Another factor to consider is that traditional funeral rites put an embalmed body in a steel lined casket inside a heavy concrete vault; it is possible with this sort of treatment that a mummified corpse will last forever and there is no natural breakdown of bodies or caskets. GRAVE MATTERS also brought up the fact that many vaults do leak and that the embalming fluids used in bodies seeps into ground water in that way….right in the certified cemeteries.
A true green burial also does not have any formal gravestones but prefers instead to use natural rocks which can be engraved with names and dates. The burial grounds are also preferred to return to natural prairie states after burials…no mowing or planting of alien plants other than prairie flowers and plants is not wanted.
When one considers this without the usual emotionally charged thoughts about death and burial…green burials are what have happened on this earth since the time of prehistoric people. Until morticians took up the ancient pagan Egyptian practice of embalming the dead…all funeral rites were natural or green! When you think of all the people who have lived and died on this earth over the eons of existence since Creation…..green burials are far more numerous than what we know as modern funeral rites and burials in this day and age….steel caskets, concrete vaults and all—-to protect a body? To prevent pollution of ground water? Not true at all I think. And why preserve a dead body? Is this some cultural come-lately appeal to people who are left behind….to do all this stuff so their loved one will not decay naturally? Apparently that is the bill that is sold to clients of modern funeral practices.
A green burial is far more natural than any other thing that has been truly “invented” by mankind….if you think about the endless “rites and rituals” of modern funerals (such as the reviewal of bodies) it almost seems to be pagan in its conception. It surely does not appeal to my Christian belief that “we are absent from the body but with the Lord”. A dead body is such an obvious shell no matter what a skillful mortician does to make it look like it is only sleeping. That is a great deception because one look tells you it is not true…..that person is truly “gone” from its earthly container.
There are those who advocate Green Burials who say that a wooden coffin is not even necessary…..wrapping a body in a shroud or in a blanket that the person loved is adequate for a natural or green burial.
I am convinced that I want this sort of “last rite” for myself. I am not interested in having people look (review) my dead body. I want to be buried quickly and simply…..and I wish the law would permit my burial on my own home farm….that is my fondest desire. I plan to look into it seriously after re-reading GRAVE MATTERS and the article from the “Star-Trib” by the person known as the “backward ND Farmer” !!
I am grateful for the article forwarded to me.
In late May of this year, we visited a large ranch that is along Lake Sacajawea in North Dakota. When we were going cross country on part of the ranch land we pulled up to a lone grave on a hill. It was the grave of a man who had lived on the land many years ago and had wanted to be buried in that spot rolling hills and prairie land. The grave was simple and a small stone marked the place where the man lay. The grave had been fenced off so it would not be disturbed by any persons in the future. It was a touching moment to see that simple grave on a prairie hill. It is the sort of thing I envision for myself if it is at all possible.
Being returned to the dust is a natural part of life —-and death. Why should it be so cluttered up with “funeral rites” that are man-made and complicated by being man-made? I do not want that for myself; I know that for sure and certain!!!!