FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Note: embalmed in this context does not include embalming when it is done with "green", non toxic, chemicals as identified by the Green Burial Council. Embalming isn't the issue, it is the toxic chemicals that are normally used.
If my loved one dies in the hospital can I have their body brought directly to your facility or does it have to go to a funeral home first.
To clarify, The Good Earth is not a facility, but is a burial ground and a consulting business. To answer your question: the first step is to get the hospital to release the body to you, the family. I suggest you begin having this discussion immediately, prior to the death. It is perfectly legal for you to take possession of the body.
I don't think I can handle touching a body, will you come to my home and do it for me?
No, the home funeral is a sacred act of love and respect. Families carry it out themselves creating their own rituals. I hold classes to teach you the basics on a pre-need basis and am available for guidance only. I'm hoping to make people more comfortable with the deceased and to realize that by caring for their own they are helping themselves in the grieving process.
Can I have a home funeral without a green burial? A green burial without a home funeral?
Yes, you can do one without the other, however it will require a Licensed Funeral Director's cooperation. Only the family can conduct a home funeral with guidance from a volunteer home funeral guide and the help of unpaid family and friends. Any funeral director you work with must use only products that are biodegradable as mentioned in other places on this site; and will follow any other rules of the green burial ground.
Who else can help us with a home funeral?
I am currently the only home funeral guide, that I know of, in this area. I am currently working to form a team of home funeral guides that will work on a volunteer basis. Some funeral homes may agree to bring the deceased to your home, however, may require services and merchandise that you do not want to purchase and are not part of a green burial such as caskets and embalming.
How much does a home funeral cost?
Whatever you choose to spend. It's about the love and rituals created. You could choose a shroud of silk or a favorite quilt of cotton; make your own biodegradable wooden casket or buy a more expensive one, some choose to use a cardboard type that is generally used for cremations and decorate it; floral arrangements or flowers from the yard; hire someone to sing, play music, or have poetry readings; create what would mean the most to you and the loved one.
I thought embalming was mandatory.
Embalming is not mandatory unless, in some states, you are taking the body across state lines, or in the case of a very few communicable diseases. Alabama law states that there can be no public viewing after 24 hours if the body is not embalmed and that a body must be dispositioned within 48 hours unless embalmed or refrigerated (which can be done with dry ice). A body that has not been embalmed can be temporarily preserved at home by using dry ice. The body may not appear the same as an embalmed body that has had make-up applied, etc., but there are methods of preparing the body to lie in state.
What is a green/natural burial?
There are varying degrees of green burial grounds. My plan for The Good Earth Burial Ground is to keep the land as natural as possible. There will be no embalmed bodies; no caskets that are not certified as biodegradable (no metal, wood that has varnish, fiberglass, etc.); no tombstones; no artificial flowers and even fresh flowers will be limited; burial garments or shrouds will be of a natural fiber (cotton, silk, bamboo, etc.). The grounds will not be landscaped or manicured as you see in most cemeteries. Due to our soil conditions I will be allowing the use of machinery to dig graves. Families may choose to dig the grave by hand and cover it themselves. I am working to have The Good Earth Burial Ground certified by the Green Burial Council. greenburialcouncil.org
If I can't have a tombstone how will I know where my loved one is buried?
You can have a flat fieldstone type marker in "The Meadow" section and other larger markers in the "Woods" which will need to be approved by the cemetery administration. The cemetery will not be responsible for theft, vandalism, or damage though we will take care when providing ground maintenance and other burials. You will find these stones to be much less expensive than the typical granite tombstones and they can be engraved. We will also keep meticulous records of burials and plan to mark with an unobtrusive magnetic pin and measurements.
Who can be buried at The Good Earth Burial Ground?
We welcome everyone regardless of race, creed, faith, nationality, etc. It is non-denominational and privately owned. We also welcome pets, if space is available you may be able to bury them near your own plot.
How complicated is it to take care of the deceased at home?
Some would have you believe that once dead the body turns into a bacteria infested object. There are a few steps to take in order to best keep the body until time of burial or cremation, however, it is much easier than you would think. It is imperative prior to making the decision to have a home funeral that each family have sufficient support to carry out the entire process. I will hold a class for 6 people or a group to show what needs to be done. If after you've taken the class you need reassurance or advice I am happy to help at no charge.
Does a funeral home have to transport the body?
I've found nothing stating that it is prohibited, but that it is at the discretion of the facility where the body is located. Unless proven otherwise you should be able to transport your own loved one in any conveyance you have and deemed appropriate. You should check with the facility your loved one is in if they are not at home. As a means of respect, the body should be wrapped or enclosed so it is not in view of the public. There are, of course, laws against abuse of a corpse and I'm certainly not encouraging that. In my research, I've found that families have used a van, SUV or pick-up truck. Is there really anything about a hearse (which you are charged for) that is more respectful or loving? In the case of pre-need, it is advised to ask the facility where your loved one is located whether they will release a body to the family. I am happy to assist in this task.
Is a home funeral with green burial better than cremation?
There is no right or wrong or better method of disposition of the deceased. There are only differences. You can have a home funeral before cremation so that you spend time with your loved one and have that chance to say good-bye and absorb the reality of the death prior to the cremation. In Alabama you will need the assistance of a Licensed Funeral Director to carry out the cremation. Most funeral homes won't allow a viewing without embalming which may keep you from spending the time you want with your loved one. Cremation does use more energy and can cause some degree of air pollution.
What is embalming and what purpose does it serve?
Embalming is the removal of blood and body fluids from the deceased which is then replaced with chemicals. It gives the body what some believe is a more natural color and can preserve it for a few days prior to burial. It does NOT indefinitely preserve the body and many think it does no better job than keeping the body refrigerated prior to burial. To me, it is barbaric and of no use. Every body is going to decompose, it is a fact. Keep in mind that decomposition is the natural ending to being born. The body will not look the same at a home funeral as it will after embalming and make-up, but that doesn't make it right or wrong, only different. Embalming is also frequently associated with an increased risk of certain cancers among the embalmers due to the use of chemicals. It is an artificial means of preservation.
Are dead bodies infectious?
Steven Rottman, director of the UCLA Center for Public Health and Disasters, said that no scientific evidence exists that bodies of disaster victims increase the risk of epidemics, adding that cadavers posed less risk of contagion than living people. In disasters involving trauma where there is competition for resources, the resources should be going into establishment of water supply, sanitation, shelter, warmth and hygienic food for the survivors, not digging mass graves. Spraying is a waste of disinfectant and manpower. Indiscriminate burial of corpses demoralizes survivors and the lack of death certificates and can cause practical problems to survivors. You will use the same precautions after death as you did before, if the patient had a virulent contagious disease that required personal protection before death then you would use the same protection after death. There are very few diseases, such as Ebola, that would prohibit a home funeral.
Should I be concerned about animals disturbing the grave?
There is no evidence of this having happened at any of the other green burial grounds in the US, even in the states with bears and other bigger animals. The requirement of the Health Department is that there be a minimum of 18" of soil over the body. This is deep enough to keep animals from causing any issues.
How did you determine the price of the burial plots?
There are numerous factors that go into the pricing of a plot. The two major factors are the price of the land and the endowment trust fund of $25,000.00 that had to be set up according to Alabama law. That means there will always be money available for care of the burial ground.