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Editorial: The changing business of burial

In the end, that’s what most people want: and acknowledgement of their existence
Mountainview Cemetery is expanding and North Cowichan is looking for input from the public on what people want to see there. (Courtesy of North Cowichan)

The history of our human relationship with death and burial is both fascinating and sometimes macabre.

Just look at the Egyptians and their elaborate pyramids, or the cities around the world built on catacombs. In places like Paris you can tour these old mines that were transformed into bone storage, as cemeteries made way for the new by digging out the old (a not uncommon practice in many places).

The business of dying has changed drastically over the years, with far more options available (both new and ancient) than most have ever considered or knew existed.

Did you know you can have the crushed bone left over after cremation mixed with concrete and made into an artificial reef to restore underwater habitat?

But if one doesn’t have the cash for a space burial, or to be cryogenically frozen, plastinated or mummified (yes, really), they’re probably looking for a beautiful spot closer to home where people can come to remember them, if they wish.

In the end, that’s what most people want: and acknowledgment of their existence. This is why in Lake Cowichan, two columbariums were installed at what was named River’s Edge Memorial Garden, creating the town’s first cemetery in just 2018. It was one of the most popular projects in recent memory.

And why many in the Cowichan Valley will be glad to hear that the Municipality of North Cowichan is expanding the Mountain View cemetery.

People will also be interested to know that the municipality is looking at alternative types of burial to be included in the expansion, though probably less exotic than those above.

The historic cemetery dates back to 1878, and came into the municipality’s possession in 1962. It is comprised of the traditional graves and grave markers with columbariums for cremated remains.

Now, some want a green burial, where their unembalmed remains will biodegrade quickly in the ground, along with whatever container or covering they are buried with.

Some want plants or trees to be installed over their resting place.

Other people would like the option of having a place where they can have their remains scattered over a garden or wooded area, or placed directly into the soil.

Many people want their death to be as friendly to the planet as possible, many even liking the idea that their remains will go to nourish new life.

We have no doubt there will be other suggestions made during public consultations. We’ll be interested to hear them.