How burying the dead keeps the living human


Olena Koval found out that her husband was dead via text message. He was shot by Russian soldiers inside their home in Bucha while she was sheltering nearby, their neighbors told Human Rights Watch. In the days that followed, despite the brutal cold and her spinal disability, she made repeated attempts to recover his body but was turned back each time by the soldiers’ threats.

As the atrocities escalated, Olena fled Bucha to save her remaining family. Before their departure, she left a note with a neighbor that marked where her husband’s body was, hoping someone could give him a burial.

War is synonymous with death, but its emotional toll extends beyond the loss of life. The inability to say farewell to one’s loved ones and lay them to rest can often be just as painful.

Humans have always cared for their dead – so much that archaeologists often consider mortuary rites among the traits that distinguish Homo sapiens from other species. In other words, it is a fundamental part of being human.

Paying respect

Humans’ close relatives also showed concern for the dead. The Neanderthals practiced burials, and other extinct hominids probably did too. Even chimpanzees appear to grieve over deceased relatives. But no other species goes to such extraordinary lengths to care for its dead.

As an anthropologist, I have spent two decades studying rituals, particularly those that can seem “extreme.” At first glance, these customs seem puzzling: They appear to have no direct benefits but can feel utterly meaningful. A closer look, however, shows that these seemingly senseless acts express deeper, profoundly human needs.

Take funerary rites. There is a practical need to dispose of a dead body, but most burial customs go far beyond that requirement. Among the Toraja people of Indonesia, for example, deceased family members are kept in their homes for months or even years. During that time, their relatives treat them as if they were still living: They offer them food, change their clothes, and bring them the latest gossip. Even after their funeral, their mummified bodies are exhumed, dressed up, and paraded around town on ceremonial occasions.

People walk in a long line under a huge red banner along a wooded path.
Residents participate in a funeral procession to honor ancestors in Tana Toraja Regency, South Sulawesi, Indonesia.

The Toraja are not alone. In Madagascar, I have visited communities where people lived in fragile reed huts, at the mercy of frequent deadly cyclones, as the only robust brick-and-mortar buildings in the area were used as tombs. And in the ancient city of Petra in Jordan, the architectural masterpieces carved into the rock by the Nabataeans two millennia ago were resting places for the dead.

Those practices may seem like outliers, but they are not. In all cultures, people clean, protect, embellish and carefully deposit their dead. Muslims wash and shroud the body before interring it. Hindus may bathe it with milk, honey and ghee and adorn it with flowers and essential oils before cremation. Jews keep watch over the deceased from the time of death until the burial. And many Christians hold wakes at which family members gather to pay tribute to the deceased.

Creating closure

Funerary rites are ostensibly about the dead. But their importance lies in the roles they play for the living: They allow them to grieve, seek comfort, face the reality of death and find the strength to move on. They are deeply human acts, which is why being deprived of them can feel devastating and dehumanizing.

This is what is happening in Ukraine.

In besieged cities, people cannot retrieve the bodies of their loves ones from the streets out of fear of being killed. In other cases, Ukrainian officials have accused the Russian army of burying victims in mass graves to hide war crimes. Even when they are retrieved, many of the corpses have been mutilated, making them difficult to identify. To people who have lost their loved ones, the lack of a proper send-off can feel like a second loss.

A woman in a black hat and jacket kneels next to a grave.
Tanya Nedashkivs’ka, 57, mourns the death of her husband at the site where he was buried in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, April 4, 2022.

The need for closure is widely recognized to be indispensable – not only by anthropologists and psychologists, but also first responders, governments and international organizations. This is why armies go to great lengths to return the remains of fallen soldiers to their families, even if that takes decades.

The right to a burial is acknowledged even for one’s foes. The Geneva Convention stipulates that belligerents must ensure that the bodies of enemies are “honorably interred” and that their graves are respected and “properly maintained and marked so that they may always be found.”

Given the importance of those rites, it is also striking that the Russian defense ministry has reportedly been reluctant to bring their own dead back home, because they are concerned with covering up the scale of the losses. This seeming indifference to the suffering of Russia’s own people and their need for closure may be yet another act of dehumanization.

Complete Article HERE!

Poem: Of Errands

By Rick Barot

The older we get, the more life and death tangle. In this poem, the speaker occupies the liminal space of transition, where the child and the parents begin to switch roles. This poem toggles among birth, life and death seamlessly — it starts with objects remaining after a recent death, and eventually turns to the speaker running errands with his aging parents. This final unannounced shift is what gives this poem gravity — changes are always happening, and time’s movement is constant, but our awareness of these changes arrives at the most mundane moments: buying cupcakes at a bakery, or picking up cold medicine at the pharmacy. Selected by Victoria Chang

Of Errands

By Rick Barot
On a table in the living room
there is a gray ceramic bowl that catches
the light each afternoon, contains it.
This is the room we turned into
the room of her dying, the hospital bed
in the center, the medical equipment
against the walls like personnel.
In Maine, once, I rented a house hundreds
of years old. One room had been
the birthing room, I was told, and I sat
in that room writing towards the bright
new world I am always trying
to write into. And while I could stop
there, with those two recognitions
of endings and beginnings, I’m thinking
of yesterday’s afternoon of errands.
My father and mother were in the backseat,
my sister in the passenger seat,
and I driving. It was like decades ago
but everyone in the wrong places,
as though time was simply about
different arrangements of proximity.
Sometimes someone is in front of you.
Or they are beside. At other times
they are behind you, or just elsewhere,
inconsolably, as though time was
about how well or badly you attended
to the bodies around you. First, we went
to the bakery. Then the hardware.
The pharmacy, the grocery. Then the bank.

Complete Article HERE!

A Daughter Tries to Make Sense of Her Mother’s Suicide

By Michael Greenberg

A Daughter’s Search for Truth and Renewal
By Laura Trujillo

When a loved one dies by suicide, it can reverberate through the family for generations. In some instances, the emotional toll is worse than that of a murder. If — and this is a crucial “if” — the murderer is convicted and the motives and circumstances of the crime are aired, the family can at least clothe its grief in a conclusive story. In the case of most suicides, family members are left with the agony of guessing, and the guilt that ensues — I could have saved her, if only I’d heeded the signs — can lead them to imagine that they are inadvertently the killers themselves.

In her moving memoir, “Stepping Back From the Ledge,” a veteran journalist takes readers to this difficult place. Here’s the history, painful as it will be to read: On April 26, 2012, Laura Trujillo’s mother killed herself by jumping from the edge of the Grand Canyon. Mother and daughter were extremely close, and the circumstances surrounding the suicide make the web of Trujillo’s emotions a challenge to untangle.

Several months earlier, a visit to her stepfather at a rehab center where he was recovering from a stroke provoked vivid memories of his repeated intrusions into her bedroom to rape her from the time she was 15. The abuse continued throughout her adolescence, and to protect her mother, who seemed rejuvenated by her new marriage, Trujillo bore it in frozen silence. “She had her confidence now, joy, and I couldn’t ruin that, I told myself, no matter what he did to me.”

Trujillo was a happily married mother of four, with a fulfilling job as managing editor of The Cincinnati Enquirer. Recollections of her stepfather’s abuse shook the foundation of her life, to say the least, so her therapist suggested that she tell her mother what happened. Shock and guilt followed the revelation and their rich relationship became fraught and strained. Hoping to repair the rift and unburden herself of her trauma, Trujillo sent a long email to her mother, expressing all that she had felt and experienced. One of the haunting questions is whether her mother knew what was happening with her stepfather. “I told her I didn’t forgive her, because I didn’t need to forgive her. It wasn’t her fault. It was his.”

Two days after receiving the email, her mother killed herself. “I was certain I was responsible,” writes Trujillo. To make matters worse, her maternal grandmother and her mother’s siblings blamed her for the tragedy. They ostracized her and her children at the funeral, embracing the abuser, now a hobbled, elderly man, seemingly incapable of the crimes he had committed decades ago.

The loss of her mother plunged Trujillo into a deep depression. She plotted her own death, writing (and rewriting) goodbye notes to her husband and children. Trujillo ably describes the pernicious logic of suicidal depression. Ending it all became the only reasonable solution: “I truly believed at the time that my children would be better off without me — it seemed so normal and obvious.” The decision provoked a temporary sense of relief and calm. Enveloped by this feeling, she headed toward the Grand Canyon to join her mother.

How the author stepped back from this ledge constitutes the heart of the story. The process is slow, almost imperceptible at first. In a memoir like this, the author must be both scientist and lab rat, painstakingly dissecting her mother’s behavior and her own under duress. When Trujillo struggles to convey the most trying experiences, her inarticulateness becomes a form of eloquence. Among her realizations is that suicide is a mysterious and unknowable aspect of being human.

As mysterious are the ways we find to heal. Trujillo inherits a bracelet that her mother wore on her right arm on the day of her death. The bracelet is bent, and Trujillo wants to know if this is because of the impact of the fall. In the course of her investigative work, she reads the medical examiner’s autopsy report, which indicates she fell on the left side of her body. The “bend in the bracelet must have been simply from my mother squeezing it to fit on and off her wrist.” In the irresoluble shadow of suicide this fact offers comfort.

The most enduring pain is in the impossibility of understanding why. Trujillo’s mother had bouts of depression throughout her life. Is this knowledge enough to alleviate her daughter’s agony of self-blame? With suicide, Trujillo writes, “only one person ‘gets’ an ending; the rest of us are left with a story abandoned midsentence.” Fearlessly, Trujillo attempts to complete the sentence. For many who have been touched by suicide, her hard-earned story will be a helpful companion.

Complete Article HERE!

These are the best and worst U.S. places to die, report shows

  • Your end-of-life experience may be very different depending on where you live, according to a Policygenius report.
  • The report ranks the best and worst U.S. places to die based on funeral costs and services, green burials, palliative care, Medicare providers, at-home deaths and probate shortcuts.

By Kate Dore, CFP®

Your end-of-life experience may be very different depending on where you live, according to a Policygenius report that ranks the country’s best and worst places to die. 

The report gave each state and the District of Columbia a numerical score based on seven factors, including funeral costs and services, green burials, palliative care, Medicare providers, at-home deaths and probate shortcuts.

“I think the big takeaway of this project is to get people thinking about the costs associated with the end of life,” said Logan Sachon, senior managing editor of research at Policygenius. “Because some of them can be mitigated through planning.”

“If you look at the top 10 and bottom 10, there aren’t any specific things they all have in common,” Sachon said. “They are each kind of unique in their own way.”

Indeed, Vermont, ranked as the No. 1 place to die, was among the most expensive for funeral costs but scored highest for palliative care, which focuses on pain relief, management and emotional support.

Florida, known for its high population of retirees, came in last place, with the fewest Medicare providers per capita, and scored low for at-home deaths and palliative care.

The best places in the U.S. to die

  1. Vermont
  2. Utah
  3. Idaho
  4. Ohio
  5. South Dakota
  6. Maine
  7. Colorado (tie)
  8. Illinois (tie)
  9. New Hampshire
  10. Washington

The worst places in the U.S. to die

  1. Florida
  2. Alaska
  3. Texas
  4. Hawaii
  5. New York
  6. Georgia
  7. New Jersey
  8. North Carolina
  9. South Carolina
  10. Connecticut

It’s never too early for older Americans to prepare for end of life, Sachon said.

While the Covid-19 pandemic has boosted awareness about the need to be proactive, 67% of Americans still don’t have an estate plan, according to senior living referral service  

Experts recommend an advanced directive, also known as a living will, covering your medical care preferences. You’ll also need a health-care proxy or power of attorney, naming someone to make medical decisions on your behalf if needed.

Estate planning

The report also focuses on each state’s probate process, which determines the cost and time it takes to settle your estate.

As of June 2021, only 17 states and the District of Columbia have an estate or inheritance tax, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

With different laws in every state, a local estate planning attorney may share some options to protect your assets and carry out your wishes, depending on where you live.

There’s no federal estate tax on wealth below $12.06 million for individuals in 2022, and with proper planning, married couples can transfer their unused exemption to their surviving spouse, effectively doubling it to $24.12 million.

However, this reverts to an estimated $6 million exemption in 2026 when provisions from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act sunset.

Complete Article HERE!

‘I Prepare Wills for a Living, and Here Are 4 Things I Wish Every Family Would Talk About in Times of Health’

By Erica Sloan

As a thing that most people try to avoid, death isn’t a common topic of conversation. After all, discussing it requires confronting its inherent inevitably—but avoiding discussions surrounding it doesn’t just bring blissful ignorance, either. In fact, this tactic can leave your loved ones in the lurch when death does arrive. That’s why estate-planning attorneys suggest considering in advance how you’ll discuss your plans for death with your family, and above all, making a point to do so.

Death comes along with an emotional and logistical cascade of concerns for those close to the person who passed. While working with a palliative-care professional or death doula once death becomes imminent can certainly help with the emotional side of things, creating an estate plan ahead of time mitigates stress related to the logistics. “This is why we always say every adult should have a will,” says estate-planning attorney Rosalyn Carothers, JD. “For one, that allows you to direct what happens to any of your assets, and two, you’re making it easier and less expensive for your family members to help, as you’d have seen fit.”

“If you indicate clearly [to family members], ‘Here is my plan,’ then everyone can get on the same page, and it’s harder for someone to feel like they’re getting cheated.” —Patrick Hicks, JD, general counsel at Trust & Will

But, because of the inherent sensitivity of a will—deciding who gets what and what goes where—creating one only gets you halfway to solid death preparations. Learning how to discuss your plans for death with loved ones is the other half, both so that they know exactly where to find all the relevant documents in the event of death, and also so that they can help ensure your wishes are carried out effectively, without confusion, disagreement, or unwelcome surprises. “If you indicate clearly, ‘Here is my plan,’ then everyone can get on the same page, and it’s harder for someone to feel like they’re getting cheated, so to speak, when push comes to shove,” says estate planning attorney Patrick Hicks, JD, general counsel at Trust & Will.

Below, estate-planning attorneys share the key elements of end-of-life planning to talk about explicitly with family members, so that everyone knows what to expect should the unexpected occur.

What to discuss with family about end-of-life issues, according to estate planning attorneys

1. End-of-life wishes

A handful of both pre- and post-death desires fit into this category—which covers what you’d like to happen in the event that you’re incapacitated or terminally ill (the details of which can be legalized in a living will) and how you’d like your body to be handled should you pass (like your preferences for burial or cremation, for instance). “You really want to let folks in your life know, ‘Hey, if I’m in this circumstance, do this or don’t do this,’ regarding life support, in particular, so that loved ones feel like they are intimately aware of what you would’ve wanted,” says Carothers.

Even if it’s all legally delineated in your estate plan, talking about these desires openly can spare the people in your life who survive you from some very difficult conversations, says Hicks. It’s also worth mentioning that, in the same conversation, you should tell loved ones exactly where they can find the documents detailing these wishes, so that there’s no need to search for them if and when the time comes.

2. Who will handle what when death nears

Once you start considering your plans for death, you’ll quickly run up against what Carothers calls the “who’s its” and the “what’s its.” This refers to “who” in your life is going to handle “what,” logistically speaking, when you’re about to pass and afterward—which is another big source of potential death-related conflict that can often be avoided with a conversation.

The most contentious roles to consider are who you’ll appoint as your financial and health-care agents under your powers of attorney, or the person (or people) you’re choosing to handle your finances and taxes and your medical decisions, respectively, whenever you become unable to do so. “Sometimes, people don’t want to speak to their kids or siblings about this because they don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings,” says Carothers. “But, it’s better to let these loved ones know upfront who you’re choosing for what and why.” That way, there’s less chance of a dispute after the fact.

The same goes for clarifying whom you’ll be naming as the executor of your estate (once you have a will in place or while you’re creating one). This is the person who will settle your accounts, manage your personal assets, and disseminate the right assets to the designated beneficiaries of your will after you pass. Talking about this with family members lets everyone know whom they should turn to for any will-related matters post-death.

3. People to call in the event of an accident

Chances are, you may not even know exactly who among a parent or sibling’s friends or acquaintances you should contact directly should they become incapacitated or die. And if you do, it’s even likelier that you don’t have their contact info handy. “Nowadays, everything is just saved in everybody’s cell phones, but what happens if you lose a loved one’s phone in an accident or you just can’t unlock it?” says Carothers.

That’s why she suggests everyone keep a list of the few close friends whom they’d like to be contacted should something happen to them, along with their contact information, and inform loved ones where they can find it in the event of an accident. Also on that list should be the name and contact info of your accountant and homeowner’s insurance agent, if either or both applies, adds Carothers, since these are usually the most important people to reach in any situation where someone is nearing death.

4. Sentimental assets

Surprisingly, it’s often the sentimental pieces of property that tend to create the most tension among a decedent’s family members, says Hicks. “With valuable assets, a lot of the time, it gets quickly resolved, either according to the specific plan in place, or in a way where things get divided equally,” he says. “But it’s the things that don’t have a lot of economic value, but that have sentimental value which are typically not accounted for in a will, and then get fought over.”

That could mean a family photo album, an antique, a special piece of artwork, or any other kind of family heirloom that can’t just be cut up into parts and divided equally. “Not having a conversation upfront about who’s going to get which of these items often leads to disputes and disagreements,” Hicks says. Talking explicitly about sentimental pieces in advance can certainly get ahead of these potential arguments, though Carothers also suggests checking to see if your state allows you to file a memorandum along with your will that can include a written file of all these items, listing the person’s name to whom each should go.

Complete Article HERE!

1 in 2 older adults now die with a dementia diagnosis

by Kim Callinan

Nearly half of all older adults now die with a dementia diagnosis, up more than one-third (36%) in just the past two decades, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

While these findings are disheartening, they also serve to underscore the importance of advance care planning for the care we want – and don’t want – should we get dementia. Thinking through these difficult decisions and having conversations with our loved ones and healthcare providers now, while we are still capable of making our healthcare decisions, will be a gift to our loved ones and to ourselves.

A good time to discuss your end-of-life care wishes with your family is when you are together, like Memorial Day weekend in May.

It’s important to keep in mind that dementia, as a public health crisis, came as a result of significant advancements in medicine.

As we have discovered cures or treatments for many diseases over the last century that used to be life-threatening, life expectancy has increased, and more people are dying with and from dementia. In short, medicine can prolong how long the body lasts, but not the mind.

However, the default mode within our medical system is to extend the patient’s life, regardless of the quality of life, even for people with advanced dementia. We even subject advanced dementia patients to aggressive end-of-life interventions that inflict needless suffering with little thought.

Dementia patients take comfort from their surroundings; transferring them to a hospital causes agitation, upset and in the most extreme situations, trauma. Yet, nearly six out of 10 nursing home residents with advanced dementia (57%) go to the emergency room at least once in the last month of life.

Furthermore, emergency room physicians are trained to extend life. This reality means you could be subjecting a patient with advanced dementia to cracked ribs as a result of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), an uncomfortable urinary catheter, or a breathing tube.

A small percentage of people may want these aggressive interventions. However, more than nine out of 10 Americans (92%) agree that a person should “have the legal right to put in writing in advance that they want their caregiver and medical team to stop medical treatments when they are at a specific stage of dementia,” according to a 2018 survey by NORC and the University of Chicago commissioned by my organization.

The way to solve this crisis is to balance our advances in medicine with empathy and respect for the voice and wishes of the individual; to be seen and heard as an individual and not just as a patient.

While every person does have a legal right to forgo treatments, operationalizing this desire is not clear-cut. Dementia is a progressive disease: it’s not always obvious to loved ones the point at which their loved one would want to forgo treatments. Is it when they no longer recognize you, even if they seem otherwise happy? Is it only if they get violent? Or perhaps it takes multiple factors (e.g., can no longer eat, speak, dress themselves or carry on a conversation)?

I encourage all of us to give our loved ones the gift of clarity by filling out the free-of-charge Compassion & Choices dementia values and priorities online tool (; this tool helps you create a personalized care plan, based on your selected preferences, that your health care proxy can use to care for you should you get dementia.

While unfortunately there is no cure for dementia, we can take proactive steps to die naturally, potentially with less suffering, through advance care planning.

Complete Article HERE!

Inside the rise of human composting and other green burial practices

The quest to save the planet doesn’t end when your life does.

By Vanessa Taylor

Everybody’s going to die. That’s a fact of life. And there’s one thing everybody who dies has in common: We all got bodies. And when we die, something needs to happen with them. Most of the time, this involves cremating or embalming and burying — processes that tend to emit a lot of harmful chemicals into the atmosphere. But with our climate apocalypse creeping ever closer unless we change our ways, conventional funerary practices are no longer cutting it. Enter: the green funeral movement.

Many Americans have been trying to pursue green funerals for a while. Traditional embalming and bury-in-a-coffin approaches involve the use of about 20 million feet of wood, 4.3 million gallons of formaldehyde and other embalming fluids, 1.6 million tons of reinforced concrete, 17,000 tons of copper and bronze, and 64,500 tons of steel, according to the Green Burial Council. Cremations are increasingly popular, likely because they’re often billed as the more environmentally friendly option of after-death care, but it’s harmful in its own way: It’s estimated that cremations in the U.S. alone account for about 360,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions every year.

If you look online for truly green funeral practices, you might see the more creative forms like eternal reefs or biodegradable burial pods. There are also companies like Return Home, which specializes in human composting, getting into the game. Return Home’s human composting method is a 50-day process that begins with the body being placed into a wooden cradle with organics like alfalfa and sawdust at the bottom. From there, the body is covered with more plant material and placed into a special HVAC system.

“The most important part of this [is] that we believe the body should not be altered at all,” Return Home CEO Micah Truman tells Mic. “By that we mean we don’t cut, grind, or separate at any point.” At most, Truman explains, Return Home sometimes has to reduce down the remaining bone at the end of 30 days to make for a suitable end product. But after that, he says, “We have soil that we give back to the families.”

In order to make a burial “green,” says Caitlyn Hauke, president of the Green Burial Council International, you just need “to not inhibit decomposition, allowing the body to go back to the earth naturally.”

That means a green burial can be as simple as ditching aspects of conventional burials that are bad for the environment. For example, each year, over 8,000 gallons of formaldehyde — one of the chemicals used in embalming — is put into the ground with dead bodies. But this chemical doesn’t stay inside of dead bodies forever; it leaks. Forgoing the embalming process can do a lot for sustainability.

Caskets themselves can be quite an issue, too. According to Milton Fields, the amount of casket wood buried each year is equivalent to about 4 million acres of forest. There’s also the use of concrete. As Carol Lilly, a professor of history and the director of international studies at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, tells Mic, “Many cemeteries insist on using concrete vaults for all burials because they help to prevent ground sinkage and thus serious maintenance problems.” But to produce just a single pound of concrete releases 0.93 pounds of carbon dioxide.

“Green burial” is a new term for an old practice.

Changing the funeral industry to be more sustainable might seem like a big undertaking. But the problems with conventional funerals are actually quite new. As Lilly explains, “Death rituals and funerary practices in the United States have changed dramatically over the past 200 years.”

And because funeral traditions vary widely between different faiths and groups, some communities’ death rituals are closer to being sustainable than others. “Funeral service is a highly segregated industry, both in terms of race and in terms of religion,” Truman, the CEO of Return Home, explains. “I’m Jewish, and there are Jewish funeral homes. There’s an African American funeral home downtown that builds a lot of community there. And that’s the way it’s always been.”

This separation isn’t necessarily bad. Sarah Chavez, the executive director of the Order of the Good Death, a death acceptance organization, tells Mic, “There are often so many small details that need to be adhered to [in funerals] … It can be a big comfort to know that your needs will be accommodated without having to teach someone what has to be done, and explain why it is so important.”

In looking at how death rituals vary, it’s important to remember that “green burial” is a new term for an old practice. “What we call green burial has always been practiced by people of Muslim and Jewish faiths because of their beliefs,” Chavez says. In Islam, it’s customary for bodies to be washed and shrouded, in a process known as ghusl. The bodies are then buried as quickly as possible either without a coffin (if local laws permit) or in a plain wooden one, which is biodegradable. Similarly, in Judaism, bodies are washed without embalming, wrapped in a plain shroud, and buried in a wooden casket without any metal or nails.

In the U.S., handling the dead used to be much more of a family affair. The phrase “funeral parlor” comes from visitations once being held in a family’s home “parlor” room, Lilly explains. It wasn’t until after the Civil War that embalming become hugely popular and funerals became professionalized. Death rituals — once deeply personal — were gobbled up by the new funeral industry.

“Although funeral home employees are largely well intended … Americans have become too far distanced from our deceased loved ones as a result, which may make the grieving process even more difficult,” Lilly tells Mic. “Death in American society during the 20th century became overly sanitized and often almost invisible.”

The U.S. has once again been taking up a cultural transition — this time towards green burials. In 2018, a survey by the National Funeral Directors Association found that nearly 54% of Americans are considering green burials, and 72% of cemeteries said they were seeing an increased demand, too.

“Our younger generations are teaching us how to die better.”

Since its launch in July 2020, Return Home has helped 45 families across various communities. Truman has found a bittersweet theme among his clients. “One of the most amazing things that’s happened to us is that young people are personally requesting it,” he shares. “It’s been unbelievable. Painful, but amazing. … We’re realizing that our younger generations are teaching us how to die better.”

But this shift in learning how to die better is about more than changing how people are buried. Overall, it’s a massive reexamination of how death is approached in the U.S. As Chavez says, it’s not just about “how these spaces can be used to care for the land, but each other — especially people from historically marginalized communities who are often not able to access the end-of-life options they desire.”

This can take shape in a number of ways. There can be community funds to help address funeral costs. Green burial practitioners can also do more to honor cultural differences, like accommodating ancestral rituals that need to be held at gravesites or holding ceremonies like Quinming, Obon, or Dia de los Muertos on funeral grounds. In the same vein, cemeteries can also respond to tragedies within their communities, rather than seeing themselves as a depoliticized site.

“Community altars are often created in response to deaths stemming from violence or police brutality,” Chavez says. These altars are often torn down by state officials in ways that can compound a community’s trauma. “Green burial grounds might consider creating a community altar or garden, providing an alternate space for collective mourning.”

Death itself isn’t evil. And while some might find it uncomfortable, neither is decomposition. At the end of the day, people are from the earth, and we’re meant to return to it. As Truman says, “It’s absolutely vital that we make sure the last thing we do on this planet is give back.”

Complete Article HERE!