By Hugh Kruzel
You recycle, wear natural fibre clothing, buy carbon offsets, do yoga and chant “om,” but now the end approaches. How do you want to go? Expiry will eventually come to all our doorsteps. First our parents, then ourselves, and like taxes, religion, and how much we make, we rarely talk about death.
Canadians are just starting to have conversations about assisted dying, end-of-life decisions and funerals.
Open caskets, visitations, church events and interment at the cemetery have been superseded by the practice of cremation. Burial is now a distance second to cremation. And rather than traditional funerals, people are leaving instructions for memorial services and celebration of life parties.
A surprising number of .Northern Ontario residents say they want to be scattered at their camp or near their favourite lake.
People are also looking for green alternatives to traditional burials and cremation. What are new choices that are likely to drive change mainstream?
AquaCremation may be the way to go in the future. Alkaline hydrolysis dissolves tissue and releases the moisture within the body. This is more like natural decomposition since the same natural decomposition of tissue occurs just at a faster rate.
The French Family Funeral Home & Crematorium Centre in Kirkland Lake is the first funeral home in Canada to have high efficiency cremation equipment.
According to its website, after fluids have removed from the body, bones and fragments are processed into a uniform consistency similar to flame cremation and returned to the family.
People have “fallen in love” with the water option. [It is] more gentle and cleaner…” says Pamela Harvey of the French Family Funeral Home.
She and her colleague, Patricia French, participated in a Science North science café this spring that focused on the question, “Are green burials the way of the future? The panel also included Camille Lemieux, co-ordinator of the funeral director program at Collège Boréal and Sarah Walker, president of the Memorial Society of Northern Ontario.
The Woodlands at Royal Oak on Vancouver Island is a natural burial ground, the first in Canada. Bodies are wrapped in a shroud or placed in a biodegradable casket. In Ontario there are three natural burial sites that offer this option.
Promession or freeze-drying was developed by a Swedish biologist. Using liquid nitrogen, and then vibration, the body is broken into bits, dehydrated and powdered, and then placed in a shallow burial where the remains decompose rapidly.
Jae Rhim Lee and Mike Ma are co-founders of the Infinity Burial Suit that is infused with the mushroom spores which speeds the decomposition process leaving nothing of the body.
The Capsula Mundi, developed by Italians Anna Citelli and Raoul Bretzel, is another choice, offers biodegradable egg-shaped pods that feed the forest and transform cemeteries.
From Barcelona, Spain, BIOS, an ecologically friendly “cremains” transformation company, makes biodegradable urns and futuristic incubators that sprout trees triggered by a pre-set program.
For a memorial better than a headstone, there is Eternal Reefs, which is a partner of the Reef Ball Foundation. Ashes in a hollow cement sphere can establish a new habitat for sea life creating a permanent living legacy, according to CEO George Frankel. His company is based in Florida.
Gerry Lougheed Jr. shares his expert knowledge on green burials. “For several years our funeral home has offered “enviro” caskets which are made totally of wood and natural cotton fabrics. No metal parts (nails, screws, hinges etc.) no glues or artificial textiles.
“We also had green embalming fluids which were iodine based not formaldehyde based, but for “green clients” embalming is seldom if ever selected.”