With just a few days to go to Halloween, you might think that the @GreenMoms would be blogging about fair trade chocolate, trick or treat for Unicef, reverse trick or treating, or some other do-gooder topic.
But no. We’ve done all that.
To spice things up a bit this year, Deanna of Crunchy Chicken – the one who puts the “mental” in EnvironMental – suggested we blog about death. Green death, green burials, the green hereafter: whatever.
In fact, if you think about it – so much of going green is about going retro – back to the way our grandparents or great grandparents lived their lives.
Or, in this case, the way my grandfather, and his parents, and his parents’ parents, my great-aunts, great-uncles, cousins, and many more relatives ended their days in Bermuda.
Bermudian tradition calls for the deceased to be buried within 24 hours of death. This means there’s no need for embalming fluid, which typically contains toxins like formaldehyde.
Photo courtesy of Bulley-Graham Funeral Home, Bermuda
Native Bermuda cedar or mahogany (less common) are used to make the coffins, which are then placed in a family grave.
Here’s where things get really interesting, especially for us greenies.
Because the islands of Bermuda are made of limestone and coral, digging a grave is a difficult task – it was described as an “engineering feat” in this article from a 1921 edition of Popular Mechanics.
Why do all that work to dig just one grave?
The Bermudians are very practical people.
Instead, Bermudian families have family tombs into which they place deceased family members, one on top of the other. Well, not right away, anyway! You must wait a year before opening up a grave to bury another family member.
Over time, the cedar caskets decompose, making room for more family members. Unlike American cemeteries, which take up large plots of land, the Bermudian cemeteries are compact (like the island) and would never run out of land if operated according to tradition.
This arrangement worked well until Bermudians began moving abroad, which really began in earnest after the American Naval base was opened in the 1940s. American GIs left the island with Bermudian wives. Today, Bermudians leave to attend college abroad, and some never return home until their final visit. Then they return to the island embalmed, in a non-decomposing metal casket, which sometimes are so large it can be hard to fit the deceased into the traditional family plot.
So back to our carnival….thinking about my family traditions and Bermuda gave me this idea: Bermuda is known today as a destination wedding site. Wouldn’t it be amazing if Bermuda invented a “green destination burial” tradition too?
Of course, there’s probably a law against it.
And flying all those bodies in wouldn’t do much for the environment, either.
Aerial view of Bermuda Islands, courtesy of Wikipedia.org
But perhaps we could adapt some of these old Bermudian ways to our own burial traditions. I’ve always hated the sight of huge cemeteries – such a waste of land.
Care to start a family plot? I used to think of it as my family tradition. Now I think of it as a greener way to say good-bye.
Be sure to head over to Crunchy Chicken to check out the Green Moms Carnival – Greening the Dead – Halloween edition.
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