Halloween is our annual homage to mortality. The odd yogi aside, we're all gonna die.
As tiny goblins and skeletons scour city streets seeking sugar treats Sunday night, you might want to use the moment to think about how to take control of your own return to the earth.
One way to face the scariness is to ensure that your death unfolds in harmony with your life. That means determining the kind of ritual you want to be sent off with. Perhaps the platitudes trotted out at typical funerals aren't what you hope your friends and family will hear. In that case, consider pre-planning a more hands-on home-based farewell.
And if you're green in your corporeal existence, you might want to consider how to be green when you leave it. Sadly, Canadians have fewer ecological options for our final journey than those south of the border.
There are many issues to consider. Do you want to ensure that embalming fluid isn't used? It's carcinogenic, after all, and could theoretically pollute the ground and water supply. Non-biodegradable coffin? Will it really make a difference whether or not the box you're in lasts? Besides, those metal-lined cases come from the earth's innards, and their creation burns energy and spews emissions.
The good news is that Ontario law doesn't require you to follow any of these environmentally questionable practices. But our province lags behind in our concept of cemetery space. Innovative U.S. businesses have seen the potential to meet two urgent needs at once: appropriate disposition of human remains and the creation of wildlife habitat.
What the experts say
"Many people experience the feeling in a room where somebody is being born or somebody is dying as very similar. There is a powerful feeling of love, and people experience something that's much bigger than themselves. I advocate home funerals so that families are empowered. We've given away being part of the death process, being beside those we love as they move into other realms, which allows people time to say their goodbyes in their own way. I think one of the reasons people often grieve so long is that they didn't have the opportunity to say goodbye in a way that was meaningful to them.
JERRI LYONS , death midwife, founding director of non-profit organization Final Passages, Sebastopol, California
"My idea was to create a national system of nature preserves where people could also be buried . Green burial would be part of it. This raises money for land acquisition and widens the base of people who support nature preserves. We're using restoration ecology, trying to bury people where the land needs (it for) healing. I think people feel good that something good happens when they die. Cremation takes fossil fuel and turns your body's nutrients into air pollution to some extent. If you've got amalgam in your teeth, it puts mercury into the environment.'
BILLY CAMPBELL , MD, founder, Memorial Ecosystems, Ramsey Creek Preserve, South Carolina
"We take cremated remains, mix them into liquid concrete and form structures that mimic those you'd see underwater , giving fish and other types of sea life a place to grow. Many people say, 'Scatter my remains,' but the family feel like they would be throwing their loved one away. What we give them in our process is a permanent final resting place that creates an environmental memorial. The families are helping to pay for these reefs. If we can get 1 to 2 per cent of the cremation families moving in this direction, we're talking about really having an impact on our oceans' ecosystems and on the marine fisheries."
DON BRAWLEY , founder, Eternal Reefs, co-founder, Reefball Development Group, Atlanta, Georgia
"There are no nature conservation areas designated for burial in Ontario. There are biodegradable caskets, and all funeral directors will bury without embalming. The consumer selects what he or she wishes, and if it's legal, it will be done. Your disposition choices are not legally binding unless authorized by the executor of the will. Because the will is usually read and probated after disposition of the body, prearrangement at a funeral home is valuable. There are financial and tax advantages in pre-paying."
BRUCE HUMPHREY , president, Ontario Funeral Service Association, Toronto
"Burial laws in Ontario do not require you to use a funeral director. Embalming is not required, nor is a casket or grave marker, but cemeteries or crematoria may require the body to be presented in a rigid container. If someone has died of a (specified) infectious disease, a coffin is required, and that coffin may need to be airtight. Bodies, including cremated remains, must be buried in properly licensed and established cemeteries. Cremated remains can be scattered on private property or on Crown land and waterways. Cremation caskets can't be made of non-flammable (metal) or hazardous material, chlorinated plastic or fiber-reinforced plastic.'
GARY DEMERS , Ontario Ministry of Consumer and Business Services, responsible for administration of several regulatory acts, including the Cemeteries Act, Revised