Preserve Prairie: Get Buried ‘Green’ In Texas
There is perhaps nothing quite so human as the way in which we honor our dead. It is something we have always done, it is something we will always do. Perhaps the oldest burial site in the world, Taforat, shows signs of postmortem processing and ritualistic items left amongst the dead.
Sometimes, people commit to pre-planning and even pre-paying for their services. Often, we express "wishes" for how we'd like to make our final appearance among family and friends. I have a playlist on my Spotify for the occasion. It may seem morbid or odd, but to me, music has always been the loveliest part of being alive. And I want to be remembered as a living person, not a vacated body.
I also wish to return to the warm earth which bore me; I want to be again a part of the unique beauty of the American prairie. Mountains, seas, and forests tend to get the most aesthetic attention, but I prefer the tenacity of prairie flora and fauna. I wish for yellow flowers, little foxes, fluffy grasses, and fragile butterflies.
"Traditional" burial practices as we know them are the result of the Civil War, when the young dead men's bodies had to travel in unrefrigerated train cars to return home to their loved ones. Of course, not every soldier's body made it back home. Many were lost in farmer's fields, unrecognizable, unidentifiable, and lost to time. To families who lost multiple young family members, it was a nightmare scenario.
Chemists and tradespeople developed ways to get the bodies home, and while they were making money hand over fist, I cannot deny that it must have brought a huge measure of comfort to these parted soldiers' families. Embalming became the new normal and remains so today.
However, embalming is far from the only viable option. Refrigeration allows for more time to sit with a loved one's body, without the need for incisions, insertions, and toxic chemicals. I am certainly not knocking anyone's choice to do so, there are occasions in which it is the best choice, and it is entirely up to the family's preferences.
However, I feel that some less than ethical funeral homes get rather pushy with expensive embalming options while families are at their most emotional and vulnerable. That's why it's important to have knowledge of your options before you lose someone you love and your world seems to fall apart.
A burial option that is growing in popularity is "Green Burial"; that is:
a way of caring for the dead with minimal environmental impact that aids in the conservation of natural resources, reduction of carbon emissions, protection of worker health, and the restoration and/or preservation of habitat.
In Texas, the Katy Prairie Conservancy plans to create green burial space:
[a] conservation cemetery [that] would be the first in Texas and one of fewer than a dozen in the country, at least as certified by the Green Burial Council. The designation guarantees that not only will green burials occur there but also that the land will be legally conserved into the future in its natural state. They hope it might be replicated elsewhere and generate funds to preserve more areas, too.
Near Austin, there is a natural burial park, known as Eloise Woods, that permits both human and pet burial. Visitors locate their loved one's final resting place via GPS coordinates, as there are no markers to mar the natural landscape.
Is natural burial just a new way of recycling for hippie types? Maybe. But I find it so much more beautiful, more natural, and more comforting than the embalming process, than mass-produced caskets, than being entombed forevermore in concrete. The thought of a natural burial takes the sterile fear of death away from me and replaces it with a lovely sort of hope.
Only 3 feet under, the teeming organisms will quickly and efficiently leave behind only a beautiful skeleton. Those yellow flowers I hold so very dear will grow, little foxes will visit and fragile butterflies will flit above me. And maybe I would have helped, in my small way, maintain the natural integrity of the land from whence I came, and to which I retire.
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