Experiencing A Home Funeral and Learning More About Green Burials
Last weekend I spoke at the Ethical Humanist Society of the Triangle, which meets in Chapel Hill, NC. I went down to NC a few days early to visit with my colleague Randy Best. Little did I know when I made my travel plans that I would also get to visit a home funeral which was leading up to a green burial.
We visited at the home of Clark Wang, Randy's friend, who had died several days before. My initial interest was to see the coffin he was in; I had seen pictures of Randy building it about a year before out of reclaimed wood, wooden pegs, and hemp rope for handles. I was pleased to see the coffin and touch it, and could tell all the thought and care that went into the design and construction of this simple, but important box. It held the body of someone who had lived and then died. People who knew Clark had done all the care for his body - washing, applying oils to help with odor control, and placing him on dry ice in the coffin to maintain his body for the several days before the green burial.
Clark's body was draped, leaving his face exposed. Flowers were arranged over the sheet, having been placed there with love and care. I didn't have a reference point, never having met him in person, but after seeing many pictures and videos, I had the sense that his face was quite bloated. I don't know if that was from his illness and medical treatment or just from having been dead for several days.
It was a little strange going to a viewing and gathering for someone I had never met before when I wasn't officially there as a clergy person. People asked me "how did you know Clark?" My answer had to be that I didn't, but I knew Randy who helped build the coffin. That seemed to satisfy everyone.
And I learned about Clark. I heard of his passion for folk dancing, cello, and accordion. I heard that he was a dedicated psychiatrist who respected his patients.
But most of all, I learned how Clark was an ardent advocate for green burial. He had spoken at the Ethical Society about green burials and had provided good information which was soon put to use by one member when her husband died. The local newspaper had a front-page story about the burial which nicely shares information about green burial, and tells about the interment service Randy Best conducted. I couldn't be there since I was giving the Platform address at the Ethical Society.
Two years ago I wrote a piece about green burials. It includes links to a picture of Felix and Helen Adler's gravestone which would fit nicely in a green burial cemetery, as well as links to information about green burials.
I'm still thinking about my choices, but the more I learn, and now see, of home care for the dead and green burials, I might be making some big changes in my plans for after I die. What are your thoughts and plans? Do your loved ones know? Please tell them.