After years of working on it, we have a new green burial option near Ann Arbor! The Forest Lawn Cemetery is developing a small but beautiful section where folks can be buried in a more environmentally friendly way. I’m working with Brian Koval, sexton, to make suggestions and help them decide layout and plot details, as well as beautification and markers. Now is the time to visit the cemetery and make your preferences known!
This will be an area on the tree-lined border of the cemetery. It will be close to the conventional section in an area that is currently being mowed. The cemetery has a lot of decisions to make. Will they continue to mow it? Will they plant native grasses or wildflowers instead of grass? How will they contour the graves to make the best use of the natural features that are already present? What kind of markers will they allow (and what do people want)? Three things we know:
- There will be no concrete grave liners
- They will not bury embalmed bodies
- The burial container must be bio-degradable.
No concrete grave liners means figuring out how to handle the settling of the ground that occurs as decomposition takes place. One cannot move heavy equipment (lawn mowers, tractors or front hoes) over a recently filled grave. Does that mean they will decide not to mow? How will they dig a grave with a front hoe near a recent burial? Will they decide to bury people in succession, filling one area first? Succession burial makes it easier for the cemetery, but will people be happy with not choosing an exact plot? And will they allow huge granite grave markers or just wood or stone?
Those who choose green burial also usually want more family participation in the burial. They won’t be allowed to dig the grave but they will be encouraged to help fill it in, if that is what is meaningful to them. They might choose to use a cart or wagon to transport the body. They might bury in a plain, pine box or a shroud. The cemetery workers and funeral directors involved will also have a lot to learn, like how to lower a body by hand, rather than using electronic equipment.
How does green burial look different? How does the graveside ceremony change? Why do people choose this option and what do they want? What appeals to you? I’m so glad that this option is now available close to where I live. Perhaps other cemeteries will follow suit. I’ll keep you posted!