Source: The Washington Post
Written By: Mallory McDuff
Published: December 17, 2021
Featured: Preparing for End of Life, Carolina Memorial Sanctuary, Mallory McDuff, Green Burial
When the first vehicle arrived, I raised my right arm with what I hoped was a blend of authority and empathy. I tried to look serious but not somber as I directed cars to the gravel parking lot of Carolina Memorial Sanctuary in Mills River, N.C., a short drive from the college where I teach environmental education.
As a 55-year-old mother, teacher and now parking attendant, I’d been eager to volunteer at this conservation cemetery, which protects the land from development in perpetuity through easements in partnership with a local land trust. This was part of my one-year journey to revise my final wishes — what my daughters called my “death plan” — with climate change and community in mind.
In my late 30s, I buried my father after he was hit by a teen driver while cycling, two years after my mother died in a similar accident. My dad knew that his neighborhood cemetery didn’t require a vault to line the grave. He’d written his directives in detail: no embalming, a pine casket, my mom’s linens as a shroud, his bluegrass band at the gravesite, and shovels for young and old to close the grave. I’d later learn that this form of disposition was called a green or natural burial.