Chapters About the Author Blog Events/News Green Burial FAQ Reviews Buy the Book Contact

Friday, January 16, 2009

Emily Dickinson Speaks of Death from the Grave

In the coming weeks I'll return to the topic I started but flagged on early last year: a step-by-step plan for my own eventual green burial.

Planning in advance for a standard sendoff via the local funeral home can be an involved affair. The green goodbye can be ever harder to arrange, as I discovered when I went to do it myself.

I tell you why and then walk you through the process I'm charting to set my own affairs in order. My goal? To not just record my final wishes but to make it as easy as possible for my family to follow through on them. The steps will be specific to my Pennsylvania hometown, but I'll work to make them broad enough to apply elsewhere.

Back with step one next week: documenting the legal right my family has to care for its own dead.

And speaking of passings, here's Emily Dickinson giving us a gentle and seductive view of death's arrival in her famous poem, "Because I could not stop for Death." Death not so kindly stopped for Emily in 1886 (she died of Bright’s Disease). But the Cyberage has resurrected the Belle of Amherst in this eerie but oddly fascinating "recording" of the poem, in the video above.

Because I could not stop for Death
Emily Dickinson

Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me;
The carriage held but just ourselves
And Immortality.

We slowly drove, he knew no haste,
And I had put away
My labor, and my leisure too,
For his civility.

We passed the school, where children strove
At recess, in the ring;
We passed the fields of gazing grain,
We passed the setting sun.

Or rather, he passed us;
The dews grew quivering and chill,
For only gossamer my gown,
My tippet only tulle.

We paused before a house that seemed
A swelling of the ground;
The roof was scarcely visible,
The cornice but a mound.

Since then 'tis centuries, and yet each
Feels shorter than the day
I first surmised the horses' heads
Were toward eternity.

Mark Harris
Author, Grave Matters (

No comments:

Subscribe Now: Feed Icon

Grave Matters

Facebook page for the book on green burial, Grave Matters, with updates on the growing movement.