Case study: Maggie's simple, natural burial
Sharpham Meadow has been open for burials for two years now, and our community of souls is growing. The meadow was farmed bio-dynamically for the previous 20 years, so has a well-established, flourishing and healthy ecosystem, which has generously accommodated this new but also timeless human activity.
Skylarks continue to proliferate across the field, nesting in the increasingly rare long grassland that they need to raise their young. Deer pass through, badgers turn over the grass in search of succulent grubs, hares flatten themselves in divots and Barn Owls launch their evening raids from the cob shelter, returning to messily eat their prey in the rafters.
Over 30 people have been buried here so far, while others choose to have their ashes interred here. Some died at the end of long lives, rich with fulfilment. Others died too soon, taken by tragedy or illness. Their stories and those of their families hang in the long grass like spiderwebs in dew, becoming part of this landscape of the heart.
Just as no life is alike, no funeral is either and the ceremonies that have unfolded at Sharpham Meadow have all been different apart from one unifying factor: the simple sincerity of each. One recent funeral stands out though.
Maggie was approaching her 9th decade and had been blind since her 50s. She lived in East Devon, a little distance from Sharpham and the Dart, but she had heard about this place, so got a friendly taxi driver to bring her. Together they walked the field, while he described everything that could be seen. Maggie sat on the grass and breathed it all in, feeling the hilltop breeze, hearing sheep, smelling the river and the sea on the horizon. She decided this was where she would lie.
When she died not long after, she was brought here by the funeral director she had known for 30 years, and with our help, she was simply lowered into her grave, but not before her coffin was lain in the long grass again, one last time.We all paused and looked out over the soft hills, bright and alive in the May sunshine, cloud shadows scudding across the landscape, the river sinking into the sea's embrace, drinking it all in for Maggie.
Written in 2016, by The Green Funeral Company's Rupert Callender
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