I suppose it was my way of saying, "Can we talk about something else?", but lately I have a better response. Now I want my final destination to be four-feet down in a green cemetery.
These are the rare, natural burial sites that treat the dead with respect, little expense and minimal environmental impact. It is how mankind has disposed of its dead for 99% of it's existence.
It was only recently that we came up with the cumbersome and expensive "American way of death". I saw it clearly when my brother, Clay, succumbed to cancer twelve years ago. A funeral home was retained to drained his body's blood and replaced it with weird chemicals to preserve what was left.
My older bother was dressed in a nice suit and placed in an expensive wooden box. At his burial his casket was placed inside a 500-pound concrete box to keep the worms out and the dangerous, weird chemicals in. When the ceremony ended a bulldozer was waiting to push a pile of dirt back into Clay's open grave. That growling machine was more than I could handle.
My sons and I buried him ourselves moving the earth with shovels. The cemetery manager happened to have them on hand as he noted, the local Mexican farm workers prefer using them to bury their dead.
His funeral was okay, certainly what my brother wanted, and I think he appreciated our final flourish at the end. He's twelve-feet from a Lake Wales cow pasture and bovines occasionally pay visits. After Clay's burial I started thinking of my own demise. I stopped telling people to stuff me.
My family always had a great time at our festive backyard barbecues. Maybe that's why mom and dad chose to be cremated. I once met a guy who ran a crematory and he said it smelled like "ribs in the grill too long". This held little appeal to me. It seems like another way of waste gas and, truth be told, I don't want burned dead or alive.
I knew our country had strict, stupid laws regulating the disposition of bodies. These were created more to promote the funeral industry then public health. A few years ago, people promoting a more natural approach began breaking down these prohibitive laws. I suppose they began by meeting with the funeral industry and saying, "This is what thousands of people want and you can get a piece of the action!". It was then that laws changed so folks in the dead body business could offer green burial options.
A year ago I discussed these with my wife and we began looking for our final resting place. Green burials are only allowed in a few states and Florida is fortunately one of them. Last year there was just one green cemetery in the Sunshine State, Gainesville's Prairie Creek Cemetery. Now there are three others, the closest in Boca Raton.
The one by the creek is well described on its website,
Prairie Creek Conservation Cemetery (PCCC) is a non-profit community cemetery nestled in a protected conservation area near Gainesville, Florida. We are licensed by the state of Florida and certified at the highest level by the Green Burial Council. Prairie Creek Conservation Cemetery collaborates with Alachua Conservation Trust (ACT), a long-standing conservation organization in Gainesville, to manage, protect, and restore the land for all living things. This includes maintaining a conservation easement with Alachua County which protects the land from development in perpetuity and keeps it open to the public.
Prairie Creek Conservation Cemetery is a natural and wild space. Here you will find a blend of flowering meadows and shaded, breezy hammocks where people from across the state and beyond have made the choice for a natural burial (also called green burial). By preventing the use of embalming fluids and vaults, those laid to rest here can return to and become one with the earth.
That's next to Paines Prairie, a 21,000 acre state park. Nobody's gonna build a condo on my grave.
After we passed the entry gate we saw signs leading us to a burial in progress. A body was carefully taken from a plain, white van and placed on an old railway cart. It was encased in a wicker casket. Many, we understand, are wrapped in cloth.
Photo from their website
A party of twelve followed the cart as it was pulled into the woods for burial.
All graves are dug by hand. A buddy of mine volunteers on a grave digging crew. Jeff says four-feet down is just right.
After words are spoken and prayers said, the body is lowered and the grave filled. Most of the ones we saw were covered with wood chips or Spanish moss. Flowers, a small planted tree, or driftwood marked the graves.
Their GPS coordinates are recorded so no one gets lost.
We felt comfortable there. This peaceful prairie seems like a good place to end up, far from traffic and tombstones, a breezy, easy way to go.
If you'd like more information, check out,
www.painesprairieconservationcemetery.org or other green cemetery websites.