“Let children walk with Nature, let them see the beautiful blendings
and communions of death and life...and they will learn that death
is stingless indeed, and as beautiful as life.” - John Muir
The rules of our society when it comes to the burial of a loved one seem as if they are set in stone. There’s a hearse, a coffin, everyone wears black, and, more than likely, your loved one has been embalmed, caked in makeup; their hair constructed perfectly so they can be seen one last time. However, it’s very difficult for this presentation to resemble anything like the actual person you loved. What great, great lengths we go to -- with labor and finances -- but what and who are we doing it for?
There are religious traditions that are sacred and are done for specific reasons that provide comfort to those involved. No one’s sacred traditions deserve to be called into question or mocked. However, for those who don’t feel beholden to a religious custom, don’t have the outrageous amount of money required, and are searching for another option for what to do after a loved one has died, here’s news for you: there’s an incredible world of options. It’s true. Options that don’t cost nearly as much; options that are sustainable, options that help the health of our planet.
There is something called Green Burial.
The voice and tone of this publication will always be that of a millennial family caregiver who shares sentiments of other millennial family caregivers. If there is no family around, forcing their traditions upon you, the ball is in your court to talk with your loved one about all options. With an enormously reduced cost and reduced harm to the planet, this new kind of tradition can be created. We want new options, new methods, because the old ones haven’t worked for us. We also have very strong principles, and seek solutions that are in line with our principles. Sustainability is key.
However, Green Burials are not even new. From Morgan Oaks Eternal Preserve:
Green burials aren’t new—they were in fact once the norm in the United States prior to the Civil War. Back then, death was an expected chapter in everyone’s life story, followed by a respectable period of mourning. The lost loved one was often laid out in the parlor for viewing and even photographed by those seeking to memorialize them forever, then buried without embalming to facilitate a natural return of “ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”
This ritual changed during the Civil War, when so many soldiers lost their lives far away from their homes. Underdeveloped transportation infrastructure required their bodies to be preserved long enough for a proper funeral, and the practice of embalming became commonly used to allow families to see their lost soldiers one last time.
I-Ally has partnered with Morgan Oaks Eternal Preserve, located in the rolling foothills of Placer County, CA. ‘The Preserve consists of just over 160 acres of meandering trails through centuries old oaks that are surrounded by farms, vineyards and amazing views of the Sierra. With its gentle slopes and beautiful sounds of nature, Morgan Oaks Eternal Preserve is designed as a natural place where families can walk the many trails, enjoying nature at its finest. Two beautiful memorial gardens are located at key viewpoints to honor your loved one’s memory with future plans to enhance the natural beauty for families to enjoy for generations to come.’
They don’t allow embalming or traditional coffins. According to The Green Burial Council, whose certification is held by Morgan Oaks, the cons of a traditional burial include:
- Required permanent installation of non-biodegradable vaults around non-biodegradable caskets;
- An 8 times higher risk of contracting blood diseases such as leukemia, and 3 times higher risk of ALS for embalmers;
- Every year, the US buries over 1.6 million tons of reinforced concrete – roughly 1-2 tons per vault, plus imported steel from China and exotic woods from rainforests in South America, creating a significant total of carbon emissions.
I-Ally partnered with Morgan Oaks because one of I-Ally’s main pillars of our manifesto is a commitment to educating and creating death wellness. Since it is an integral part of a caregiver’s experience, I-Ally believes it can be approached, discussed and explored without fear, without stigma or taboo. Part of achieving death wellness is to imagine and embrace different ways of internment that are definitely healthier for the climate, and are quite possibly healthier for the bereaved. Death wellness involves fostering choice and discussion, which is exactly what Morgan Oaks does.