Letter to the editor: Consider a ‘green’ burial

Published 8:29 pm Thursday, September 29, 2022

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

To the editor:

Of daisies and thorns…

Several years ago my wife Fay and I started to share our ideas on what we would like to do with our mortal remains after our souls depart to be with the Father in Heaven. We considered the traditional approach of a conventional casket burial as well as the option of cremation. I started to do some research and discovered that there was another less-selected option of what is known as a “Green Burial.”

Green burials are based on a concept that all the remains, including the vessel containing the body and its contents, will become natural additions of the earth. As the “green” suggests, it is an environmentally friendly way that takes place in a natural setting and cares for the land as well. As I researched the options, I discovered that the embalming process, the vault, and the casket offer little or no benefit to Mother Nature, but in fact produce a toxic sludge that may last for years, decades, or even centuries. Further, the cremation process results in air-polluting ash that has little or no biological benefit, and requires enough energy to run the average car almost 5,000 miles.

Green burials take place in a conservation environment where the cemetery becomes a living natural area that can be shared by all, and hosts not only funerals but weddings, picnics, hiking, and other group events, and many times become a place for a casual stroll in the afternoon or evening. There are presently two such sites in North Carolina, one in Asheville and one in the Raleigh area, and that may be a drawback to some. However, there are several other sites being planned or developed, including one in our area.

We selected the Asheville site, Carolina Memorial Gardens, because of our love for the mountains. We met with the director there, toured the facility, and selected our sites.

Green burials can be done with a coffin, wooden box, shroud, or other vessel for the body, and some actually use no vessel at all, just the body. Since embalming is not a part of the preparation process, the body is taken to a funeral home where it is prepared for viewing or a celebration of life as we selected. It is then placed in the burial vessel and after any family arrangements are concluded, transported to the burial site. The burial site opens the grave, prepares the area for the burial ceremony and then the burial party may actually close the grave as part of the ceremony. No plastics, metals, or other non-biodegradable are permitted in the grave, but natural flowers, stuffed animals, pictures, etc. are usually acceptable.

To complete our pre-planning, we then started to identify a local funeral home that would support the green burial concept. Much to our surprise, most of the local firms were not interested. (Could it be because we selected an option that was thousands of dollars less that what they offered?) One firm, however was interested in hearing about the process and we set up a meeting with the owners, Carl and Kim Lambert. After our initial meeting they were so excited about the concept that they made an appointment with the director at Carolina Memorial Sanctuary and drove to Asheville to visit the site that very weekend. Since then, both Carl and his wife Kim have been a true blessing to our family in their support, service, and compassion. They have also championed the green burial concept.

On Saturday, Sept. 10, I laid my wife of 29 years to rest in her beautiful willow casket near a bubbling brook overlooking a bucolic meadow complete with horses, cows, and sheep and with the grave facing the majestic mountains to the West. Someday when God is ready for me, I will rest beside her. I’m sure she was right (I learned she always was) when she said that her remains will become a bright bunch of yellow daisies and mine will be a thorn bush.

Robert G. (Bob) Ogden

Bermuda Run