Kind of a strange topic switch but my husband and I have been doing a lot of talking about death and funerals lately. Neither of us is real big on the whole stuffy formal funeral ritual but in this day and age it remains more or less the norm. I am not a stuffy, formal person to begin with so the idea of my funeral being something like that just seems wrong. The idea of an open casket where all my loved ones would parade past and gawk at me and my pasty, unnatural face quite honestly makes me cringe. The last thing I want is for people to stand around in a horrifically decorated room, speaking in hushed voices, looking at me in an outfit I mostly likely hardly ever wore with the muted organ music piped in from some "Songs for the Mourning" compilation CD. And thankfully my husband feels the same.
This past weekend the Globe and Mail did a whole story on the growing popularity of green funerals and I gotta say -- that is so up my alley. I don't have a will yet so anytime I talk about this I make sure and point out to whomever is around that if anything should suddenly happen to me, under no circumstances are the following things to happen:
1. Do not embalm me and pump me full of unnecessary chemicals that will only succeed in killing the earth around me.
2. Do not dress me in something I never wore or looks like I'm going to either a wedding or a job interview. If you must dress me, please pick something that is actually me. Like a pair of jeans and a band t-shirt and some sneakers.
3. Do not put me in some overpriced, highly laquered casket made from a type of rare rainforest wood. An all natural pine box is fine. I'm even happier being shrouded in a natural fabric that will biodegrade me quickly allowing me to help trees grow and all that other hippie stuff.
4. Do NOT have a stuffy service in a funeral home where people will be all weepy. I know I'm fantastic, but please try and have fun and celebrate my life the way I would have wanted.
There's a new group in Canada called the Natural Burial Co-Operative. They're all about the green burial and the following is their schtick:
A natural burial is an environmentally sustainable alternative to existing funeral practices:
Bodies are interred within an existing forest or savannah ecosystem or within an area requiring natural rehabilitation, such as fallow farming fields.
The body is prepared without chemical preservatives and is buried in a biodegradable casket or simple shroud.
After burial, the gravesite is planted with native trees, grasses or shrubs. The name and details of the deceased are added to the on site memorial. Families may also choose to include biographical details, photos and stories on the Natural Burial memorial website.
Natural burial uses a minimum of chemicals and natural resources while maintaining a strong connection with the earth for the deceased and surviving family and friends.
In contrast, consider that each year the 22,500 conventional cemeteries in the United States bury *;
827,060 gallons of embalming fluid, which includes formaldehyde
30-plus million board feet of hardwoods (Caskets)
90,272 tons of steel (Caskets)
14,000 tons of steel (Vaults)
2,700 tons of copper and bronze (Caskets)
1,636,000 tons of reinforced concrete (Vaults)
You can quickly begin to see that our modern burial practices have taken us far away from natural cycle of life.
Tell me that doesn't appeal to you. A quiet pastoral setting doing its thing for Mother Nature and you get to be a part of it instead of helping to ruin it.
Our neighbours, Terry and Natalie, recently lost Natalie's father. Instead of all the usual funeral stuffiness, he requested a Celebration of Life. They had it in their backyard on a beautiful sunny Saturday afternoon, everyone dressed casual and spent the day eating and drinking and laughing and talking about what they loved about Frank. Instead of the children standing around looking scared, uncomfortable and bored they were laughing and playing. We couldn't believe how nice it was. There were no hushed voices and uncomfortable silences -- just shared memories, laughing and being together in warm and loving surroundings. That is what it's all about.
There's no green burial grounds around where I live, only out in B.C so I may not be able to get my eternal resting place of choice but I can at least have the celebration I want. Just because we grew up thinking that funerals were the only way to properly honour the dead doesn't mean it has to stay that way.