Rixa wrote a great post on home burial a few days ago on her blog Stand and Deliver which got me thinking about the connections between birth and death and just how removed we have become in western, highly industrialised societies from the cycles of life and our propensity to hand over the 'management' of some of the most intimate expereinces we ever face as humans to commercial business. The baby/body becomes the comodity. Home birth may be still a fringe occourence, less than 0.1% of women birth at home today in Australia, the statistics on home funerals/wakes I'm unclear about.
When Simons wife died he brought her home and held her wake here. It freaked me a bit at first to know that. That my study... but in my heart I believed what he did was the right thing so i managed my weirded out feelings. When my twin sister died, my mum carried her coffin in the car to the crematorium. Being close and involved seems important in the grief process.
When i was living in Thailand and on holiday with my boyfriend in his rural hometown, his grandfather passed away and it was one of the most incredible expereinces i heve ever had and the memory has always been a wonderful one. For three days the whole community prepared. As Thais live in rather open style homes you could see preparations going on all down the main street where his family lived; grandma and grandpa lived across the road and cousins and aunts and uncles down the street, so you could see into peoples homes and the preparations the community was undertaking. Men were hard at work making the coffin and preparing the ceremony and women were sitting around threading flowers onto strings to make hundreds of garlands for the service and preparing huge pots of food.
Come the day of the service i was blown away. we walked across to his grandparents home/shop and the shop had been clearerd out to make rom for all the guests. The coffin sat in pride of place but set back into a corner. It looked fantastic. It looked like a tall decorative steamboat, and it stood three tiers high. The bottom tier contained the body, then there was a smaller long box on top and another smaller one on top of that. I am not sure if these other boxes served a purpose. The coffin was beautiful, painted black and decorated ornately with thousands of tiny coloured tinfoil cutouts. It looked like sparkly mosaic and it was draped in twinkling fairy lights and flower garlands. It was the most beautiful coffin Ive ever seen. The attending monk sat next to the coffin and conducted the service which was full of guest chatterings and not alot of listening! My boyfriends grandma seemed to pay more attention to my novel blonde hair than the service for her husband! After the service, the coffin was lifted by the men in the family and carried it low and we walked, some 100 strong down the middle of the main street of his small town, to the temple where the body was deposited to be burnt, returnng to my boyfriends house to feast. The ownership of that funeral was intense and is something i have since realised is so humane, normal and integrating.
Rixa talked briefly about home burial, now Im not sure what the legalities of that are in Australia. But I know 'green' funerals are becoming more popular as cremation and burial both have environmental impacts. Eco funerals in Adelaide provide cardboard coffins lined in calico, carbon offset credits and use Toyota Yaris! (how a body fits lying down in a Yaris i dont know!) and WhiteKnight, also in Adelaide, have removed the coffin completely, shrouding the body in cotton then hessian - no wood, no waste, no varnish, no metal, no formaldehyde leaching into the grondwater. Additionally , instead of burying the body at the "traditional six feet under, the body is buried at medium depth, allowing it to break down at a normal, healthy rate rather than the much slower rate imposed by anaerobic conditions further down in the soil" How green is that?
Bush burials are taking off and its this kind of burial that I'd like. Bushland setting, body in ground, tree planted on top. Yes please. If i could, id be propped under a tree somewhere in the outback, but thats not allowed. Burials, even so called bush burials must take place in a designated 'graveyard' and there are only a few in Australia, Lismore, Adelaide and Tassie. These kinds of burials coupled with a home wake and preparation seem to me to be more humane, more loving, intimate and meaningful and certainly greener. How 'bout you, what are your preferences? grin.