We buried my cousin Eric a few weeks ago in the graveyard of my home church, Norway Lutheran, in Wind Lake, Wis.

Eric had died Aug. 30 of last year in Seattle. He was cremated and a memorial service was held in his congregation there and also at Norway Lutheran, where his father’s extended family of Hansons live.

Over the Fourth of July, Eric’s wife and daughter brought his cremains back to the place on earth that he loved the most; his final resting place is next to my dad’s grave, at Eric’s request, on old Norway Hill.

It was a moving committal service at the graveside, led by Beth, Eric’s wife. My brother Jim lowered the urn into the ground and we all took turns replacing the dirt. Then we all had lunch together at the Hanson homestead farm, my home, where Eric spent many summers of his youth.

Eric was the first of my extended family who had been cremated and it got us into a discussion about that burial option.

Many family members think it makes sense. I, too, think that it is a good option. No embalming, just cremation and a memorial service.

But I’ve been reading about other options lately, particularly “green” burials, and I believe that is the option I would choose.

A green burial involves simply being buried in the earth in a simple shroud or biodegradable casket with no embalming, no metals, no concrete.

You are simply returned to the earth, “earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” and your grave is maybe marked with a tree or a simple flat stone marker.

The graveyard, then, is more like a nature preserve, with trees and natural grasses. I saw an article about an early “hybrid” (meaning regular burial and green burial) church cemetery in Michigan that I shared with my brother, Jim, who is in charge of Norway Cemetery, encouraging him to think about acquiring another section of the cemetery for green burials.

Originally posted July 28, 2011, at Healing as a Sacred Path.Republished with permission of the author. Find a link to Karen Hanson’s blog Healing as a Sacred Path at Lutheran Blogs.

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