Three years ago I attended a funeral for a friend. The service was at a traditional funeral home in town and I ended up striking up a conversation with the funeral director, Jon, as ex-funeral directors do. I told Jon I had left the industry for many reasons but my focus was on no embalming, and home funerals with families first. He listened very politly as I told him more about my wacky ways.
Embalming is sort of the holy grail in the funeral industry. You are taught to create this lasting image of peace and slumber for families, and we do that with very toxic chemicals and heavy cosmetics. If that alone sounds pleasing you should see the actual embalming process. I only assisted in two embalmings during my career and I called my loved ones afterwards and told them there was no way I, or anyone I cared for, would ever be embalmed. To say the least I am anti-embalming and that made me a renegade in the funeral industry, until now.
I stayed in touch with the Jon over the years and a few months ago he messaged me. His life had been forever changed and he was leaving the funeral home he was at and starting his own green funeral home, no embalming allowed. All green, from the business cards to the caskets, even the cremation urns would be bio-degradable. I was floored, I was over joyed, and beyond anything I thought….finally. So what brought along such a profound change? Well, death.
Jon is a third generation funeral director who has preformed 1,000’s of embalming, but never in all those years had he actually kissed one of the embalmed descendents. I mean, why would he? That’s just weird. But this summer his Uncle died. His uncle, who was also a funeral director, was embalmed for his viewing, as is traditionally done. Jon attended the viewing and kissed his uncle on the forehead….and it happened. Jon stepped back from the casket and tasted the familiar smell he had been around for years. Embalming fluid. He shuddered at the taste of chemicals and preservatives and thought to himself, How many other families have done the same thing? Of the 1,000’s of bodies how many times did he see someone lean over that casket and kiss their loved one for a final time only to be left with that taste in their mouth? Jon had his “Aha moment” and emailed me to let me know.
Yesterday, Return to Nature, opened its doors to the public. A 100% green funeral home. There is no embalming (not even that “green” embalming fluid funeral homes have tried to push) The body returns to nature free from harmful chemicals. No steel caskets will sold, no concrete vaults, and the families still have time to view and honor their loved ones, without embalming. Cremation is always an option as well, and instead of getting that ugly black plastic box families will receive the cremated remains in a biodegradable urn.
I am so proud of Jon and the Hallford family. The world needs more movers and shakers. Big changes are happening and will continue to happen if we make it. Speak up, let your voices be heard! Cheers to green funerals and the future of death care!