Written By: Mallory McDuff
Published: March 25, 2022
Featured: Climate Crises, Natural Burial, Carolina Memorial Sanctuary, Mallory McDuff, Aquamation, Human Composting, Warren Wilson College
We were late. It was just a potluck, so our tardy arrival shouldn’t have mattered. But the dinner was in honor of a woman named Yvette, who used a wheelchair and was dying of cancer. Time felt precious. With my teenager in the passenger seat, I spun the car into the parking lot at Holding Space, a nonprofit that provides a home in Asheville, North Carolina, for those facing death without family or finances — so they could die in a community rather than alone.
As we walked up the steps of the house, casserole in tow, my daughter turned to me, desperation in her eyes. “Pul-leeze don’t ask the dying person about plans for her body,” she asked. “Just leave it this one time.”
This event was one stop in my yearlong journey to revise my final wishes with climate change and community in mind. So I’d been talking a lot about “death plans” with both strangers and friends at the small college where I live and teach environmental education in the Appalachian Mountains. The impetus for my research was the climate crisis — as well as my parents’ sudden deaths after they were both hit while cycling, in separate accidents two years apart, by teen drivers.