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Cemetery/Natural burial in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

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Question
I am trying to pre-plan for a natural burial for myself. I live in a small town on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and cannot find any funeral home or cemetery anywhere nearby that will do a vaultless burial without embalming. The closest one I have found is in Traverse City, Mich., which is nearly 400 miles away. Do you know of anyone closer to Houghton or Marquette, Mich?

Answer
Hi Jennifer ---

It's really hard to believe you can't find a historic cemetery in your area to accommodate this very simple request!!!

I'm willing to help out if you're willing to do a little bit of extra work here, in this question thread.

FOR THE VAULT-FREE BURIAL IN A CEMETERY:
Mainly, what I need is a list of the cemeteries you've called on the phone, the name of the cemetery, the cemetery's phone number, and what they said when you asked about a vault-free burial. You can post your list below, the All-Experts website will send me an alert, and I'll dialog about this with you online, here, so that other people can also benefit from what you and I discover. I'm betting that, once we get you asking the right questions, you'll be able to find someone within a reasonable distance that will offer what you want.

FOR THE FUNERAL WITHOUT EMBALMING:
I believe it MAY be illegal for a funeral director to require embalming in Michigan unless you've died of a reportable contagious disease, especially since it's one of the states where doing your own funeral work is very, very difficult; since you're forced to use a funeral director, and since consumers are usually protected by law from being forced to purchase unnecessary services, chances are the Michigan FDs you've talked to are breaking their professional code of conduct as described in statute and Michigan's administrative rules.

In your shoes, I'd contact the Michigan mortuary board - http://www.michigan.gov/lara/0,4601,7-154-35299_61343_35414_60647_35464---,00.ht  by telephone - not email - ASAP and convey your concerns to them. When you speak with them, be sure you have the names of the funeral homes you contacted, the persons you spoke with, and what they said when you asked them about a funeral without embalming.

Have a good long discussion with the Board about your FUNERAL wishes (see what I say below) and THEN try calling your funeral directors. Another strategy with the funeral directors - and this is a shameless plug for my company here - is to ask them if they carry Natural Burial Company products. If they do, you can ask them for their prices and add those to your funeral planning folder. (They are required by law to make prices available to you if they ask) If they don't, you can buy them direct from us (biodegradable coffins and such) and ANY funeral director is required to use a coffin you purchase, and they can't charge you an extra fee for doing so. (http://www.naturalburialcompany.com and http://funerals.naturalburialcompany.com. We sell coffins, shrouds and caskets to folks in advance; they're easy to store - we have kits of wood - and some people use the woven coffins as blanket chests, or simply keep them in a dry household spot til needed.

IMPORTANT:
Remember to keep the funeral process and the cemetery process separate in your mind. Michigan is one of the few states where combination cemetery-funeral homes are banned, so this shouldn't be too difficult, but it will be easiest if you shop for your "natural funeral" - i.e., no embalming - from the funeral director and your vault-free burial from the cemetery.

In other words, DON'T ask the funeral director for a 'natural burial' and don't ask the cemetery person for 'embalming free.' That's like going to the farmer's market to try and buy tires with your carrots, and the auto shop to get your apples when you get your tune-up done. All you're likely to get is really bad information about the thing they don't sell (and sometimes you get bad info about the things they DO sell, as well).

Funeral directors WILL sell "direct burial" or "direct cremation" but this simply means NO FUNERAL SERVICE, and has little to do with the burial or cremation (the disposition) itself. You can order a direct burial (much cheaper) from the funeral director and then order a graveside service from the cemetery.

Check with the cemetery to see what their rules for a graveside service are before you count on this, and whether or not they require a funeral director's presence for the burial, or if the sexton can manage it. There will be charges from the cemetery for the graveside - some cemeteries include it with the opening and closing fees, however, so you'll need to ask.

I hope that gets you started. I look forward to helping you find a cemetery in the UP to work with. Once you do, we can get them on the Natural End Map - http://www.naturalendmap.com - so that others can find them more easily than you did!

best,

Cynthia  

Cemetery

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Cynthia Beal

Expertise

Typical questions include 1) Where can I go for a natural burial? 2) What types of coffins, urns and other "packaging" are best for natural decomposition? 3)How do I plan for a natural funeral? 4) Do I have to be embalmed? and other questions in this vein. I'm available to answer general consumer questions about natural burial, home and natural funerals, and sustainable cemetery management. I answer questions about general cemetery matters, and offer suggestions about how to deal with remains, cremated or buried, interment rights, rules for cemeteries and plot owners, covering conventional as well as alternative options. I also answer questions from professionals, home funeral guides, and family members about how to manage a natural funeral either in the mortuary or at the home, how to best use natural coffins and urns, and how to convert cemeteries to natural, sustainable practices. I will answer questions from volunteer cemetery managers about how to offer natural burial in their rural, Pioneer, or non-profit cemeteries. If I don't know an answer I'll refer the questioner to someone who does. DISCLAIMER -- I am a certified pre-need sales person in the State of Oregon. I am not a licensed attorney, tax adviser, estate planner, funeral director, embalmer, accountant, public official, or any other professional that may be associated with issues the question brings up and any answers I provide should not be relied upon if such expertise is required by the asker (as per the All Expert suggestion). I provide my own personal opinions, based on my experience in business, Nature and its systems, and with human beings after 55 years of life on the planet.

Experience

Natural burial and sustainable cemetery management experience: I'm the founder of the Natural Burial Company and a member of the Sustainable Cemetery Management Group. Over 25 years in the natural products industry, and 9 years running the Natural Burial Company. I've done some consulting for existing and start-up natural cemetery operations. I'm currently an instructor at Oregon State University, facilitating the creation of a program in sustainable cemetery management and stimulating research in cemetery-oriented processes and functions.

Organizations
ICCFA - International Cemetery, Crematory and Funeral Association Green Business Network Funeral Consumers Alliance

Publications
American Cemetery Magazine; Funeral Business Advisor; Real Goods Source Book; American Funeral Director Magazine, etc.

Education/Credentials
There is no degree in natural burials or funerals, and no accredited education provided for sustainable cemetery management. We're developing a program at Oregon State University but it hasn't fully launched yet.

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