Grave Matters : A Journey Through the Modern Funeral Industry to a Natural Way of Burial
By the time Nate Fisher was laid to rest in a woodland grave sans coffin in the final season of Six Feet Under, Americans all across the country were starting to look outside the box when death came calling. Grave Matters follows families who found in green burial a more natural, more economic, and ultimately more meaningful alternative to the tired and toxic send-off on offer at the local funeral parlor. Eschewing chemical embalming and fancy caskets, elaborate and costly funerals, they have embraced a range of natural options, new and old, that are redefining a better American way of death. Environmental journalist Mark Harris examines this new green burial underground, leading you into natural cemeteries and domestic graveyards, taking you aboard boats from which ashes and memorial reef balls are cast into the sea. He follows a family that conducts a home funeral, one that delivers a loved one to the crematory, and another that hires a carpenter to build a pine coffin. In the morbidly fascinating tradition of Stiff, Grave Matters details the embalming process and the environmental aftermath of the standard funeral. Harris also traces the history of burial in America, from frontier cemeteries to the billion-dollar business it is today, reporting on real families who opted for more simple, natural returns. For readers who want to follow the examples of these families and, literally, give back from the grave, appendices detail everything you need to know, from exact costs and laws to natural burial providers and their contact information.
Harris's case for an eco-friendly burial is also an argument for a graceful and productive afterlife. Avoiding embalming keeps funeral waste out of our sewers, while burial in a shroud or cardboard coffin saves trees; these approaches can also bring the living back in touch with the cycle of life, he argues. Following in the footsteps of Jessica Mitford (author ofThe American Way of Death), Harris discusses the ways in which Americans have shifted care of the dead out of the hands and homes of friends and family as he tours various burial options, from the most environmentally intrusive to the least. His graphic description of an embalming offers a sharp contrast to a burial in a biodegradable coffin in a nature reserve, where the decaying body will help restore the environment. Embalming is also expensive ($12,376) compared to burial in an artificial reef (between $995 and $4,995 after the $1,800 cremation). Acknowledging that burial requires a series of difficult decisions in the midst of devastating emotions, this practical, powerful and affirming book succeeds as a survey of burial methods, a collection of true stories and a resource guide.(Jan.) Copyright (c) 1997-2005 Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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January 09, 2007
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