Over crackers and cheese a couple weeks ago a friend asked me what I had been doing recently. "Writing and talking about green burial," I replied, and launched enthusiastically into a description of a blog piece about soil in graveyards.
"Ugh," she said. "It's so morbid."
We're close friends; she's aware of my several-years passion and her reaction surprised me. It hurt, but I didn't think much more until last Sunday when I gave a presentation on green burial at the local Ethical Culture Society and the leader remarked on how many regulars had not attended because of the subject matter.
It's easy to lose perspective on what a subject means to others, especially one that some people do feel passionate about. You can't discuss green burial without bringing up embalming (none preferred), caskets (shroud preferred), (no) burial vaults, memorialization. So this week I took a step back and immediately got depressed. Did I want to be a herald for something my friends found morbid? Was I right in backing green burial? What about all the land that's used even if it is preserved, what about greenwashing, do I really know the science behind soil, are green cemeteries going to survive, is all this just a flash in the pan?
Do I think about my own death any more than I did when I assumed my body would be cremated and my ashes scattered? No. So how can I blame others, and how, if we don't think of our own deaths, will I convince people to consider green burial, which you can't imagine without imagining death?
But death doesn't have to be our own death. This, I realized, was key; it had been the key for me (my father's death last August allowed me to bury him green) and it could be for everyone else. An excuse to think about death without contemplating one's own.
Death of someone close will come no matter how old you are. It could be a grandfather, a friend, a mother, brother, cousin. Even a pet dog; suddenly there's a body to be disposed of. You can't ignore that. Whatever is done will have environmental as well as emotional impact.
So why not make a statement? The funeral business is encouraging us to individualize our final statements. Motorcycle funerals, caskets made to look like beer cans, cloisonne urns.
Why not recycle a body. Make your own statement and help convince someone else in the process.