RURAL BURIAL FOR AN URBAN GARDENER

A green burial is a chemical-free burial with the deceased respectfully bathed and dressed or shrouded in cotton, silk or linen. A pine casket is appropriate but not necessary. When the cemetery allows it, the deceased may be buried in a shroud, surrounded by flowers, and lowered slowly into the grave on a wooden board. Photos by Steven Waldman.

A green burial is a chemical-free burial with the deceased respectfully bathed and dressed or shrouded in cotton, silk or linen. A pine casket is appropriate but not necessary. When the cemetery allows it, the deceased may be buried in a shroud, surrounded by flowers, and lowered slowly into the grave on a wooden board. Photos by Steven Waldman.

New York City environmentalist Adam Purple was respectfully buried in a simple, biodegradable shroud (no casket at all) by Amy and the staff of Greenwood Heights Funeral & Cremation Services, along with a devoted team of green burial advocates at Greensprings Natural Burial Preserve. Mr. Purple, a leading activist within the New York City community garden movement, had sent an email indicating his wish for a old-fashioned, all-natural burial (that opened "Bro--For future reference...") years before his death of a heart attack at age 84 while riding his bicycle across the Williamsburg Bridge. As luck would have it, the wild, open fields of Greensprings were alive with blooming PURPLE aster flowers. We surrounded Adam's shrouded body with the stems, read poems, and told stories before lowering him into the natural grave on a re-purposed board donated by Big ReUse Brooklyn.

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For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt in the sun? And what is it to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides?--Kahlil Gibran

 

EVENING
The snail gives off stillness.
The weed is blessed.
At the end of a long day
The man finds joy, the water peace.

Let all be simple. Let all stand still
Without a final direction.
That which brings you into the world
To take you away at death
Is one and the same;
The shadow long and pointy
Is its church.

At night some understand what the grass says.
The grass knows a word or two.
It is not much. It repeats the same word
Again and again, but not too loudly.
--Charles Simic
 






Hail and Farewell

By Delia Gist Gardner (1900-1990)

Think not on my brittle bones mingling with dust, for 
These 
Are but a handful added 
To those gone before. 
Think, rather, that on this borrowed hilltop 
One lived joyously, and died content. 

In this dark soil 
I found reminders, saying: 
"You, too, will pass; savor for us 
The wind and the sun." 

From the smoke-blackened earth 
I dug 
A frail shell bracelet, shaped lovingly, skillfully, 
For a brown skinned wrist, now dust. 
The broken piece of clay 
Was a doll's foot and leg, artfully curved ,
Made for brown-eyed child. 

Pottery shards saying: 
"Yours for a little time only 
Take delight in this, as we did." 

The tree will die; the vine wither and rattle in the wind. 
For I broke a law of Nature. 
I carried the water to the hilltop. Nevertheless, 
For those after me there will be 
These things I have loved: 

Morning sun rays, slanting across the hilltop, 
Lighting the great trees in the green meadow. 
Wind, the great blue sky, 
Peace of the encircling hills 
And flaming glow of sunset. 

Amy CunninghamGreen Burial, Funeral