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LETTER: Bradford should 'set aside' land for natural burials

'Many places in Ontario already offer a place for green burials. Should a progressive, rapidly growing town like Bradford not also?' letter writer says

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In the municipality of Bradford West Gwillimbury, there are many inactive cemeteries, maintained as worthy monuments to the past, as well as some active ones. Most of them have some type of church affiliation. Many of us, the people in Bradford, are a confounding lot by insisting that our dead bodies be separated by religious affiliation. Why a Roman Catholic person cannot be buried beside a Protestant or Atheist, for that matter, baffles me (there may be good reasons of which I am not aware). The buried dead all travel the ‘same road.' Interred bodies will rot, either slowly or fast. Would it not be a universal good when at least in death we can put our differences aside and be beneficial to the recycling process?

And as Shakespeare’s Hamlet remarks, “there the rub." Our three active cemeteries (recently, council approval was given for a fourth) are lovely, quiet places but are also pitted with hollows contaminated with poisonous chemicals. And that begs the question: Is it reasonable today for people to insist on spending loads of money on expensive coffins and their decorations that will rot away (or are there better uses?) and on pumping dead bodies full of toxic chemicals to preserve them for just a little longer?

Even though the following practices have merit, we do not have to copy my old neighbours from Papua New Guinea. Some of them put the dead in trees to be cleaned by ants of all their soft tissue. Once cleansed, the bones are collected to be part of the family’s treasures. We also do not have to be like ancient Zoroastrians and have sky burials. A sky burial places a corpse on a mountaintop to be eaten by carrion birds/vultures while it is exposed to the rays of the sun and stars. However, should we not move with time and provide a place for natural burials in Bradford? Many places in Ontario already offer a place for green burialsShould a progressive, rapidly growing town like Bradford not also?

The following poem by Jimmy Osborne says it very well.

When I am finally laid to rest, please don’t put me in a wooden casket

Or leave flowers at my grave, in a pretty, little basket

Don’t pump me full of chemicals, and put me on display

Just bury me beneath the earth, and plant a seed upon my grave

And as my body rots below, my atoms reassimilated

In my place a tree will grow, from the place I originated

Precious minerals, returned to earth, little molecules of me

The fuel for yet another life, as I become a tree

Therefore, I ask our town council in this open letter to set aside land. The Bradford Highlands golf course comes immediately to mind and makes it the site for natural burials. Imagine what a glorious place it could be in 50 years' time. Future Bradfordites will walk among the trees and wile away some of their free time, knowing that the source of all that beauty and oxygen-producing greenery is founded on the bodies of those who lived and loved in Bradford in earlier times.

Albert Wierenga