Thursday, February 19, 2009

Worms Crawl In


You want green? How 'bout those green burials?

What, you say they're illegal in Massachusetts, which is why we don't have that option. You say wrong.

The cemetery (public as well as private) and funeral businesses refuse to offer the choice. There is no law and in some places a simple, easily overturned local ordinance would be the only impediment.

Don't take my word. Come to Cambridge to Mount Auburn Cemetery's Story chapel. At 1 p.m., Mark Harris will talk about his research on and the status of green burials. He wrote Grave Matters: A journey Through the Funeral Industry to a Natural Way of Burial.

We can pretend that if we have an embalmed corpse, a metal casket, a cast liner, and then a durable gravestone, we provide some eternal presence. Of course, in our heart of hearts we know that at best those wasteful and expensive symbols for those still alive will last a hundred or maybe a thousand years. In Earth time, that wouldn't be a single Cheerios in the cereal box of eternity.

The traditional form of nearly all cultures was to wrap the corpse and put it in the ground or a cave to dissolve, to return its elements. Really, the worms crawl in, the worms crawl out. That seems what we should all want.

My wife and I would like the idea of snuggling down into the earth. That was very real to me last week as I went into my first surgery and first general anesthesia. Hell, people die on the operating table!

We do no have the option citizens do in Maine, California, South Carolina and elsewhere. Hmm. Our advocates are the soft-spoken Funeral Consumers Alliance of Eastern Massachusetts.

They are nice folk, but we all have that limbo problem. There are no laws preventing green burials in the commonwealth. Individual cemeteries would have to offer or be started to offer them.

I suspect Harris will speak of the funeral biz' tactics of saying terrible things will happen if they don't pump poisons into our corpses and don't bury is in the full armored vehicle of death. They even say without the concrete grave liner, it's hard for the lawn-mowing crew. Somehow people managed on this planet for thousands of years and even learned such incredible engineering feats as piling extra dirt on top to allow for settling.

It appears we're going to have to ask for the option. We're going to have to say we don't want to bury high-carbon footprint caskets and trappings, along with highly-toxic embalming fluid. We're going to have to say we'd like to go out naturally.

I'll be there on March 21st, likely still on crutches or walker.

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