Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

Today is Memorial Day in the United States ... a day to remember those who have gone on before us. I had the opportunity, over the weekend, to visit a Historic Cemetery. It was a fascinating place, the inscriptions on headstones telling a story and offering us a brief glimpse into times past.

In one section, there were markers telling of the passing of a family ... two adults (presumably the parents) and a number of children under the age of 5. They lived in the late 1700's and their short lives were a reminder of how hard life was in those days.

The military section contained a row of civil war soldiers ... a confederate flag stood next to each marker. As I stood next to their graves, I thought how they actually lived something which was only real to me through school books.

This cemetery held some famous people ... Thomas Wolfe and "O. Henry" (William Sydney Porter). It was a reminder that death is the one thing we have in common.

As with most cemeteries, this one was situated on a beautiful piece of property ... complete with a view. It was peaceful as soft breezes danced through the trees.

Looking around this cemetery, I thought about the environmental impact of what I was seeing. Concrete headstones and mausoleums ... and out of view, caskets and urns. The truth is that most cemeteries and burials aren't kind to the earth.

So ... today ... in thinking about what the day means, I'm also thinking about our final choice ... how to be buried. Will we choose a green burial or a traditional one? What are your thoughts?

As always, I would love to hear from you!


  1. we need to let our bodies go back into the earth where they came from...traditional burials not only are horrible for the environment, but they don't allow the body to properly degrade as it should, and of course the giant coffins take up ridiculous amounts of space that could be used for other purposes. they are now stacking them on top of each other in graveyards because of this (my dad's casket will have my stepmom's on top of his when she passes). cremation, while it eliminates the space issue, is unfortunately a highly chemical/toxic, carbon-intensive process. my choice is for a green burial (i.e., shroud) and oregon fortunately has a couple of locations where these are allowed (google 'green burial association' for locations in the US). however ideally i wish there was a way to be sprinkled in the garden in a way that is less toxic than current methods.

  2. I had wanted to do a post on this eco burial.

    In Auckland, there is a company that supplies cardboard coffins which they reckon will enable faster decomposition. Thus healthier to the earth.

    We can also use smaller plots, and instead of a head stone, a tree is planted. The family will get the location in the cemetery office so they can locate where their loved ones were buried.

    Finally, on a person note, 20 years ago, when my baby son died, we were given the option of burying him in a baby's area or in the adults' area.

    They told us, they could bury adults "Double Bunker" style and baby would be buried at the end of the plot. So we chose this option. So unwittingly, even in death, I will be saving the world.

  3. first principle: reuse!

    That is, donate body to what-ever its parts can be used for. Years ago, someone had a novelty folksong with the chorus "Please don't put me in the cold-cold ground, I'd rather you just cut me up and pass me all around..."

    After that, I suppose it's cremation time and I suggested that my wife mix the ashes with clay to make a crayon with which to draw a mural with me in it. Then when people ask "Where is he" she could point to the picture ;-)

  4. I have never wanted a traditional burial for a few reasons. Having a gravesite, in my opinion is just something else for family or whoever to take care of, and feel obligated to visit. Not very practical when your family is scattered from end of the country to the other. Personally,I am an organ donor, so when all that can be used is taken, I want to be cremated in the least impactful way possible and have my ashes scattered over Lake Superior. I love that lake and spent many summers walking the shore and splashing in the water. I will be home again.