The perfect green burial

The perfect green burial

Still from A Will for the Woods documentary

I don’t own horses, and I don’t care to. They’re too big and they cost a lot to keep. So why can’t I get them out of my head for the perfect green burial?

Readers of this blog may recall discussion of the perfect life that precedes a green burial, but now let’s turn time’s arrow. What would a perfect green burial look like? Mine would have three elements:

  • a home funeral
  • transport to graveyard on a horse-drawn bier
  • interment on a burial trundle wrapped in a shroud

What is a home funeral? You die at home or are brought there soon after. Your family washes, dresses and anoints your body using traditional techniques that you can learn or get help with. The National Home Funeral Alliance is a good starting point. There is no embalming. Friends and family keep vigil with your body until it is time to go into the ground.

The perfect green burial

Courtesy of

Now, the horses. There is a scene from the Durham, NC green burial documentary A Will for the Woods that’s lodged in my memory. It isn’t even Clark’s funeral — Clark, the main character who knows he’s dying and is determined to find a green burial ground, which turns out to be Wake Forest’s Pine Forest Memorial Gardens. You can tell it’s not Clark’s from the snow and biting winds, which, if present, would win bonus points in any tally of the perfect green burial, but which, however, would be unusual for North Carolina. Keep your eyes peeled for the full-scale release of A Will for the Woods this summer. It has been winning awards all over and generally tearing up the documentary circuit. And it’s ours — ours as in Triangle-centric, since Clark lived in Durham.

The horses are perfect for a burial because they are green. They eat green fescue and green clover and green alfalfa and sweet green hay. Their manure is green fertilizer for the garden and doesn’t pollute. And, if romance is green, the horses have it in spades. Somehow they convey such dignity, such respect for a life. My county is a rural county, and there are draft horses here. I dream of a small business that lets a family substitute a horse-drawn bier for the boring drone of a hearse from the house to the cemetery.

The perfect green burial

Still from A Will for the Woods documentary

For the interment, look to the old monks. I was recently delighted to read about Trappist funeral traditions. Trappists are a type of Christian Benedictine monk. They live in monasteries that have their own graveyards. So, no horse procession needed. But when it comes to interment, they hide nothing and keep it simple. The “coffin” is generally a trundle or an open box. There may be a shroud. Monks and mourners turn in shovels of dirt to cover the body, and it is no disgrace for the earth to land directly on and around the monk. Dust to dust will commence.

Note that the “perfect” in perfect green burial also happens to mean perfection in terms of spending your hard-earned greenbacks on a funeral. These options add up to the cheapest funeral I can think of, especially if you are able to find an inexpensive burial plot at your church or, even better, on your own land.