A Green Burial provides Healing in a simple ceremony
Green Burial met the needs of a recent family we had the privilege of serving. They came to us to develop a “simple” service and burial. We talked about their deceased family member’s life and the memories they would cherish and the things she stood for. As we chatted, I realized that the deceased family member had requested what is known as a Green Burial.
The deceased had lived a simple “back to basics” lifestyle. She and her partner were living mostly “off the grid” in a remote rural area. We found that the guidelines of a green burial met her wishes in many ways. A casket of woven bamboo, natural cotton clothing and burial in one of the few green burial cemeteries in Michigan set the family at ease. They knew we could fulfill her wishes and be consistent with their need to gather family and friends with her present to say goodbye.
The grave, a symbol of our emotions
After a short but meaningful ceremony with time for all to see her, celebrate the story of her life, and share their remembrances, we proceeded to the cemetery space. The family and friends carried her in the bamboo casket through the snow to the simple unadorned open grave. As we approached it appeared that the earth had been ripped open similar to the way the family members felt their lives had been disrupted and their hearts torn open by the loss. The green grass showing under the snow was a reminder that there is life after the death of a loved one. Just as the grass will struggle to overcome the winter and grow again in the spring, so will the family rebuild their lives and change the relationship with the deceased to one based upon the memories of their loved one.
As we arrived we saw that the grave had been carefully dug and squared off, the sides neatly trimmed and the bottom layered with straw. Two heavy planks and three straps were laid across the opening. After the remarks and prayers of the celebrant at the grave we proceeded with the simplicity of the green burial. I took hold of the end of one of the traps along with family and friends and we lowered the casket into the grave with our hands. Others surrounding us dropped flower blossoms on the top of the casket now nestled in the straw below us.
The healing began
The emotions were surprisingly raw but not overwhelming. The look of those gathered around was a mix of sadness that they were leaving a family member behind, however, small smiles had started to appear on their faces with the feeling that they had done everything they could for her. We had laid her to rest, we had “tucked her in”. As we took leave and walked back through the snow many remarked that it was a beautiful ceremony, simple, meaningful and healing because they were there and they took an active part.
This is why I do what I do
It reaffirmed to me why I do this every day, and why I subject myself and my staff to the pain of loss of others. It is because it helps those who need help at the most difficult time. It is because I have seen the smiles start to return to a family in grief and I have seen the beginning of their healing.