Green Burial

Today is a tough day for me to be writing.  My uncle passed away 3 days ago and I’m writing from Georgia because today was his funeral.

My uncle Don Wissman was my godfather and was an important part of my childhood as well as my adult life.  He and my aunt Sue were a constant, loving, supportive presence as I was growing up.

Over the last several years Don has had a number of challenges, between two cancer battles and an ongoing struggle with COPD.  He died quite suddenly from a respiratory illness on February 1.

My father and my uncle were both members of their parish’s Knights of Columbus council and the council has a close relationship with the Trappist Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, GA.  The Monastery also runs the Honey Creek Woodlands, which is a natural burial ground on the monastery property.

My Aunt Sue and Uncle Don had purchased a plot at Honey Creek.  He was cremated after he died and today after the funeral Mass we went out to take him to his resting place.

We laid him to rest under a Georgia pine on a hilltop with the sun shining and the breeze blowing.  After the blessing and the burial we hugged and cried a little and laughed a little and shared memories of a 72-year lifetime of love and family.

It has been a learning process to see what is involved in a green burial and I think I’d like to have a green burial myself once my life journey is done.

A green burial is one in which the body is not treated with chemicals and is allowed to naturally return to the Earth.  There is no embalming if the body is buried intact.  If embalming is performed, the body must be cremated.  Either way, the remains are buried in a biodegradable container (either a plain wood casket or a wooden urn).  The remains decompose quickly and return to the Earth, and soon all that is left is whatever marker the family chooses to place.

Who chooses a green burial?  I seriously cannot see myself taking up a casket-sized chunk of real estate until the end of time.  It appeals to me to have my body become part of the trees and grass and wildlife surrounding the place where it is buried.  Many people who choose a green burial feel the same.

If you are are interested in a green burial, here are a few things to know:

  1. Green burials tend to be a lot less expensive than traditional burials.
  2. If you are considering a green burial, you should consider cremation.  Burying an intact body is definitely an option, with a biodegradable casket, but timing is trickier and should be arranged in advance.
  3. There aren’t very many natural cemeteries.  I’m only aware of one in the state of Ohio, Foxfield Preserve in Wilmot.  If cremation is chosen, there is no significant time constraint, the remains can be interred at any time.

For those of us who feel it is important to walk gently on our planet and treat it with respect, a green burial may be a fitting way to close one’s life in keeping with those values.

QUESTION: Would you consider a green burial?

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