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The Last Accommodations
Consider Green Burial
by Virginia Seacrist
           
            When I first moved to Gainesville, 40 years ago now, I did receive a call from a funeral home asking me to consider buying a plot. I was young then, and I missed my home in Virginia, so I said, "I don't like living here, and I sure don't want to die here."
 
            Forty years later, I find myself walking alone along a dirt road through a beautiful hammock. Looking up I see the beautiful clear blue autumn sky and the first yellow and red leaves fluttering mlessly to join the brown leaves covering the ground. 
 
            I am considering spending eternity here, after being part of the blessings given to the place, those who conceive and carry out the idea of green burial, and those who are and will be buried here, simply and inexpensively.
 
            Considering many of the retro styles currently in fashion, we need not be surprised that even our burial methods are returning to the past styles. I was not there, but my cousin who was just a preschooler then, tells me, as did my grandmother, that my grandfather's dog jumped into the casket where he lay in their living room. We don't lay people out in the parlour any more, but we do replace body fluids with others designed to pickle us, so to speak, and then we want the leak-proof casket to keep worms and other insects from destroying our useless bodies when our souls and identity have vanished.
 
            Green burial goes farther back. Somewhere I read that Percy Blythe Shelly was wrapped in a shroud, put on a pyre, and burned. Didn't some American Indians do that? I witnessed a procession and burial in Bali before the burning. Surely we can all recount various burial methods in current and past use, but what is a green burial, and how can it affect you in Gainesville, Florida?
 
            Cremation seems very popular today, especially among some environmentalists. I have been surprised to discover how much energy is used to get temperatures high enough to disintegrate bones. Imagine roasting something in your oven until it disintegrates to ashes...self cleaning ovens do that.
 
            A green burial is as ancient as Jesus wrapped in a shroud. Few of us know what a shroud is today. However Jesus was placed in a tomb. Gainesville's green burial is under ground, three feet, and it requires a biodegradable casket, or none at all. Cathy Cantwell, Gainesville's well known environmental activist, was the first person buried in our new green cemetry near Rochelle. Her friends sewed many of the T shirts emblazened with her environmental efforts to make her shroud. She was then laid to rest by her friends in the burial plot dug for her, and her friends covered her with hand and shovel fulls of dirt. A beautiful magnolia tree is planted in the field where she is lying.
 
            One aspect of green burial which most appeals to me is that others of like mind who currently live in our community may choose to be in the same environment. Those who have conceived of the idea of preserving green space in Alachua County through Alachua County Trust also conceived of preserving more space by committing 80 acres to the green cemetery. Maybe their spirits will reside somewhere nearby. No one knows about that, but we can be sure that the natural beauty will be preserved. We know also that none of us who choose this type of burial will pollute the earth or the air or use chemicals and energy to prevent the inevitable: our body's decay.
 
            As I walked away from the consecration ceremony, I contemplated spending eternity in this lovely Florida place.
 
           

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