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Funerals/Couple burried together

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Question
Hello,
I would like to know if my husband and I can be buried together. I realize the odds of us both passing at the same time are slim to none. Can the person who passes last be put in the same casket and the person who has already been put in the ground in the same casket. Digging up the first casket and putting the second person in it. My husband and I have been married now for 28 years and we are still very happy together. I don't know who feels stronger but lets just say the feelings are mutual. As the years have passed those feelings have only gotten stronger and I can't imagine our feelings changing in any circumstance, including marrying again. We have been through a lot over the years and every instance that would normally tear a couple apart, has only brought us closer together. When I brought this subject up to my husband he was only sad that he did not think of the idea first.

Answer
Hi Tracy,

Interesting question, and you're not the first person to ask if two people can be buried together. Getting cemetery plots and making funeral arrangements is one of the ways people who are committed "until death do us part" show it. Taking care of these things in advance and trying to imagine being as close together as possible as a token of love is the best, isn't it?

So to answer your question, do you remember that old schoolteacher phrase when you ask if you can do something - "Yes you "CAN", but if you MAY is a whole 'nother question!" --- it's appropo here. "Can" usually means it's physically possible. "May" is usually about permission.

You CAN be buried together. Now, whether or not your idea of digging up the first casket and putting the second person in it is a good one remains to be seen. (Fortunately, once we talk through this part of it there WILL be good things you can AND may do.) Logistically, it's probably not that great a plan.

At minimum, dead spouse Number 2 is going to need a box or a board or SOMETHING to be taken to the cemetery in or on. Once you get the disinterment permit, finding someone - even if you pay them well - to go dig up Dead Spouse Number 1, open the casket, and either remove DSN1 (where to put?!!?) or take the casket AND DSN1 to DSN2's funeral may be a bit tricky, not to mention hard on the eyes, the guests and the floors. I'm guessing at this point you're probably agreeing that two caskets or coffins, like toothbrushes, makes the most sense here.

To go this route, you have purchased a "second right of interment" (which you'll have the right to put two humans in one grave space). Many cemeteries sell 'double depth graves' - that's where the first person is buried more deeply and the second person is buried on top. These plots are a little cheaper than the side by sides. However, in the US these graves generally require one vault or grave liner (concrete or metal box for the casket, done for the benefit of the lawnmowers) per person, so you've got to buy two boxes and two vaults - a bit less like twin beds and more like twin refrigerators at this point.

A "new-old" option that's coming to us VIA the UK and Europe is natural burial. In a natural burial (see http://www.beatree.com) you're buried directly in the earth in a biodegradable coffin or shroud (http://www.naturalburialcompany.com), without an outer box or liner keeping you from the elements. Over time, both bodies and the coffins break down and return to the earth. In a natural burial, the second right of interment could be on top or side by side, depending on the cemetery's rules.

Once the second right has been exercised, a tree CAN be planted on the grave - "MAY" is another matter, and since this is new in the US, this is the bit that you go and shop cemeteries for. More and more cemeteries are beginning to accommodate natural burials -- and they don't have to have trees, BTW, but as a symbol of love and life renewing, this is pretty much the best in my book.

The Natural End Map - http://www.naturalendmap.com -- has the largest number of cemeteries I know of offering some form of natural interment. Many Pioneer and municipal cemeteries are starting to offer this, as well. Figure out what area you plan to be buried in and then visit all the cemeteries, telling them what you want.

Hope that helps.

Cynthia at Natural Burial Company  

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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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