Redefining a better and greener way of death

By: Elizabeth Fournier, funeral director

Spending my last several years working as a small-town funeral director has given me the unique pleasure and privilege to serve families during their greatest time of need. I am always honored to be chosen to facilitate the journey of their loved one’s passing. It is my role as a small-town minister that allows me to convey to the family that the death of our bodies is a sacred and spiritual passage.

Blessed Mother

As I see it, death is a spiritual transition, especially at the time of death of the physical body. The practical realization of passing away is guided by an advanced spiritual revelation. In the green burial movement, this advanced spiritual revelation is focused on the earth’s well being, and the movement attempts to realize this.

The green burial movement is crucial to restore this freedom and choice, both during the actual death and in the arrangements made after death, and to enable a more ”natural” death, surrounded by one’s loved ones in one’s own surroundings. Important to note, the concept of natural death reaches to include active family involvement and home funerals, as well.

Eschewing chemical embalming and bulletproof metal caskets, elaborate and costly funerals, more and more are embracing a range of natural burial options, new and old, that are redefining a better – and greener – way of death.

It’s been proven that participation by the mourners eases the grieving process. Being involved really does help the constant flow of energy, and the effect is quite evident. The idea is to bring everyone into the actual process. From a personal experience I had recently, it truly helped the distraught family to participate in making all the decisions, and I think in a practical way it helped to be occupied.

The matriarch of the family had finally passed after many months on hospice care. The days following were amazingly powerful and quite personal for all involved. Her family clothed and laid her out on a bed in her living room. All her friends brought food and flowers. They were able to look at her face and touch her hands and say goodbye. After the celebration of her life, she was brought to a burial space in a wooded area and her children slowly lowered her shrouded body. The day was glorious.

Elizabeth Fournier is affectionately known as The Green Reaper in her tiny community of Boring, Oregon. She is the owner and operator of Cornerstone Funeral Services and works as a green mortician, educator and advocate who is always ready to lend a hand, or a shovel. She is the voice of the autopsy exhibit in the forensic wing at the United States National Museum of Medicine, teaches ballroom dancing at Reed College, and recently published her memoir, All Men Are Cremated Equal: My 77 Blind Dates. She writes a monthly column for The Black Lamb and Naturally Savvy, and her green pieces have been seen in American Funeral Director, Community Seeds, and Living Green Magazine.