Before the days of formaldehyde, fancy caskets, and all the other accouterments of the “American Way of Death,” death was much simpler. Typically, the loved one was washed, placed in a wooden coffin, wrapped in a blanket, a coffin-size wicker basket or some other type of container and then buried without a vault.
Old Ways Coming Back
For many years, that simplicity has gone by the wayside as death has moved from family “parlors” to commercial funeral homes. But things are changing. Increasingly, people are opting for green or “natural” burial, harkening back to those simpler times. Recently, Vale Cemetery was certified by the Green Burial Council (greenburialcouncil.org) to offer green burials at its newly developed “The Dell at Vale.” Vale is only the sixth cemetery in New York state to be accredited to offer this option. A section of the cemetery, which is a grassy open meadow, is set aside for this purpose. It is bordered by indigenous wildflowers found in the cemetery. Eventually, it will be bordered by fences fashioned from trees felled within the cemetery. If so desired by the deceased, a simple marker, such as natural granite or a small bronze plaque, may mark the grave.
Other Features of The Dell
Still in development, “The Dell” will feature a blue-stone path, antique wrought-iron fencing along one side, and a handicapped-accessible ramp oversee-ing the meadow. The Dell is also in the process of becoming a cooperative Audubon Bird Sanctuary. In addition, The Dell will not have insecticides or herbicide applications. Weeping willows and flower-ing fruit trees were planted. Mowing will be only twice each summer and will be done to discourage growth of saplings. Designed by architect and Vale board member Frank Gilmore, “The Dell” has nearly 200 plots for those wishing to make the smallest environmental footprint possible upon their death.