On a bright, sultry morning a few weeks ago, my family hiked up the small, blueberry-topped mountain that lies a few miles from the summer home my in-laws own in the wilds of New Hampshire.
When we reached the summit, Theresa set her pack on a granite boulder, looked out to the forested horizon and made the announcement that's become a standard feature of our annual trek into local blueberry territory: "Now don't forget," my wife said to me, our two teenage daughters and, seemingly, the universe. "This is where I want to be buried when I die."
We hardly needed the reminder. Theresa has talked long and openly about her final wishes. Even in grade school our daughters could (and sometimes did) recite the brief of her burial plans to their astonished classmates: My Mama wants to be cremated, have her ashes put in a paper bag and buried under a blueberry bush in New Hampshire.
The blueberry mountain is, our girls know, Theresa's special place. From early childhood on, my wife has been coming to this lush and verdant hill, to hike, pick blueberries, and for at least a few hours commune with a natural world that couldn't look any more pristine and untrammeled. Stand at the peak beside the lone fire tower here and all you'll see is a hilltop overrun in blueberry and raspberry bushes and, beyond, stretching into the far distance in every direction, an undulating and unbroken landscape of trees.
For almost fifty years, Theresa has absorbed this place. Its clean air has filled her lungs; its colors and calm and rhythms have filled her being. In all that time, this wooded corner of the Granite State has, metaphorically but also quite literally, become a part of who she is. Of course, she would want to return here at the end.
When it comes, my wife's green burial on blueberry mountain will rejoin her with the elements that so infused and inspired her in life. At the last, she will simply be one with her beloved patch of earth.
And when she is, her children can come and find their mother in Mother Nature -- in these blueberry bushes and red maples, on the winding trail up this mountain and at its peak -- where she lives on.
A green burial can save us money. It's good for the planet, hews to honorable tradition, and celebrates our loved ones. More than all that, it returns our departed to the natural cycle of life -- of life and death, decay and rebirth -- that turns forever. And in that way, gains them immortality.
author of Grave Matters
"The signature book on the green burial trend." Bangor Daily News
November 7, Northampton Community College (Bethlehem, PA)