Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Burial in an Eco-Eternity Forest

Mother Earth News gets me into all kinds of trouble. After reading an article about green burials several years ago, I decided that a green burial sounded right for me. When I pass away, I want to have a minimal impact on the environment as well as my survivors' wallets.

So back in 2008 I did some sleuthing on the internet and found the Eco-Eternity Forest at Makemie Woods, a campground and woods owned by the Presbyterian Church. The Eco-Eternity Forest is an alternative to traditional burials.

I like the spot for several reasons. It is less than a 2-hour drive from home. To help preserve the forest, you lease a tree. A forester has picked certain trees that are likely to be around a while: the lease of the tree is for 99 years. According to the brochure, the "ashes of the deceased are laid to rest at the roots of a tree in the mature woodlands...Over time, the tree will absorb the nutrients of the ashes converting the tree into a living memorial." This is life-affirming to me.

I also like the flexibility and affordability of leasing a tree. The Eco-Eternity Forest welcomes pets, and not just when visiting the grounds. You can have the cremains of your pets actually buried with you. You can either lease an individual plot--very inexpensively!-- under a "community tree," or you can lease a "family tree." And the person who leases the latter gets to decide what "family" means. "Family" could include extended family members, friends, or even pets! And while leasing a tree costs $4,500 or more, you can bury up to 15 family members there, and the cost of the biodegradable urns is even included.

Mike Burcher, the Director of Makemie Woods, gave us a tour. The grounds are rustic and campground-like, not much like a park. There's a chapel on-site for Christian services. The setting will appeal to those who love hiking, nature, camping, and the woods. I honestly don't like camping very much, but I do love all the rest. And the specific spot we went to is really beautiful, surrounded on three sides by water from a reservoir.

Most of the trees available to lease in that part of the forest are beech trees. But today I decided to lease a black oak near the waterfront. Don and I have a love of trees and especially oak trees. There is a huge one ( a different species) in our front yard. It's home and food for all kinds of animals and is a sturdy and long-lived tree. There will be a little memorial plaque on the tree (instead of a tombstone) to help friends an family find it, and the grounds can be available for picnics, etc.

Don isn't sure how he feels about all this, but he and Aqua came along for a ride today and enjoyed the grounds. Mike took a picture of all three of us in front of my tree:

Don, Aqua, and I at my newly-selected black oak tree at Makemie Woods

Matthew, my son, seems OK with the idea. I hope the rest of the family is as understanding. Time will tell!

**Update on 7/30/14: The family so far has been fine with the idea. The dear old dog in the picture, recently died of a combination of old age, kidney failure, and snake bite. We had her cremated, found our tree, and put our ashes there. We strongly suggest getting a good GPS coordinate on your tree, if you choose to lease one, to make it easier to find the spot again. R.I.P., sweet Aquaphilia!

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