Green Burials

Imagine a better way to go into eternity…

Rather than have your organic compounds sealed in a box in a vault, you could become part of the ecosystem that has sustained you since before your birth. You could become the nutrients of new life. You could become a tree in sunshine, a home to birds and squirrels, a source of oxygen, that stuff you loved so much while living. You could join the ecosystem that sustains everyone you left behind.

Being buried without preservatives, without a casket varnished against rot, without a steel or concrete vault, is not a new idea. It’s the way we did it for millennia. People who were born into nature were returned to it. What went around came around. Life went on.

Today we have a special term for it: green burial. People opt to have their bodies returned to earth with the intent of living again. No embalming. No casket unless of untreated wood. No vault. Just the body laid to rest in the earth.

Green burial is legal, yet it’s rarely done. Why? Because few cemeteries accept green burials. In all of New England, only two cemeteries have sections for green burials, and not one is reserved for them exclusively.

Elizabeth Foley, an emergency room nurse formerly with Lawrence + Memorial Hospital, is going to change that. She has formed a nonprofit organization, Connecticut Green Burial Grounds, and as soon as she’s arranged some acreage, people of organic tendency will be able to rest in true peace. Foley’s plan goes one step beyond burial. She’s going to have a tree planted over each grave. Before passing on, people (or their survivors) can choose an appropriate tree. Maybe an oak to symbolize strength, or a maple for elegance, or a monumental sycamore, perhaps a weeping willow.

(Sorry. No palms for snowbirds coming home to roost. It has to be a species native to Connecticut.) Whatever the tree, it will inevitably take up the nutrients of the person buried below. Death becomes life. The deceased rise up as a tree. Loved ones can see that living thing, gather in the shade of it, touch it, maybe take home an acorn or a leaf.

Little by little, the cemetery becomes a forest — a place of life that sustains itself with little or no maintenance. To those of environmental consciousness, a forest of trees, wildflowers, birds, butterflies, and other creatures is far more beautiful than a lawn that needs to be mowed and weed-whacked in perpetuity.

Foley says CGBG is finding no shortage of people wishing to be buried this way. What the organization needs is some land. Her desire is to find the right place somewhere in Eastern Connecticut. Why here? Because environmentally, it’s a way to preserve land and nature. Economically, it’s a source of employment as visitors come from far and wide for a decent burial. Historically, it’s the way we used to bury people; and the way we someday will again.

Green burials are the only decent way to go. And green burial grounds are ideal for our region. We have the land. We appreciate nature. We appreciate peace. And frankly, we could use the business. We can only hope we have a green burial ground here, close to home before it’s too late.
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