Local News

People can go dust to dust with 'natural' burial at Oakwood

Posted April 22, 2016 6:58 p.m. EDT

— The historic Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh now offers people a chance to go green with their burials and literally recycle themselves into the soil.

The cemetery, which dates to the mid-1800s and is the final resting place of a number of notable state and local figures, will officially open a new section Saturday dedicated to "natural burials."

Robin Simonton, Oakwood's executive director, defined that as "a grave that does not have a vault, a person who is not embalmed," adding that people who go that route are buried in "a biodegradable casket or coffin or shroud."

Mordecai's Meadow, in the northwest part of Oakwood, can accommodate 150 natural burials, and Simonton said eight people have already reserved their space, including her.

"In my mind, you live forever because you become tree food and worm food, and you become part of that natural life cycle," she said. "It’s a good way to take care of the Earth and a great way to give back to the Earth."

Julie Moore, who has already made her own casket for a natural burial, says she plans to do more than push up daisies at Oakwood.

"Someday, I'm going to be a pink dogwood tree, and that's renewing life," said Moore, who speaks very frankly about dying.

"We are a death-phobic society. We don’t want to talk about it, but it doesn’t mean we can avoid it. We all were born, we’re all going to die," she said. "I think that we should be buried in a happy and natural way."

Simonton said no local or state regulations prohibit natural burials.

"This is how folks were being buried originally, so we’re not doing anything out of the norm," she said. "We’re just returning to our roots."