Art of Dying Art of Dying_Volume III_joomag | Page 47

It encompasses everything that I love to do—I can be outside all day, I can have my hands in the earth, I can help people with death. I love seeing and learning about different burial practices. We've buried more Jewish people than any other faith. They’ve always had green burials. From the beginning, Jewish families assume the responsibility of their own. We've had Wiccan and Native American burials. One of my favorites was a Bahá'í Faith chalk ceremony. A woman was buried in a white shroud. They carried her white shrouded body and placed it on the ground. Then they threw crushed colored chalk all over the shrouded body and each other. Everybody was covered in beautiful colors. It looked like a modern art project. Some people spend the day sitting around the grave in camp chairs, sharing stories and memories. Others have a quick graveside service and hold a memorial or a celebration of life somewhere else. We let people do whatever they wish, as long as they don't burn the woods down. I've met several people who are facing their imminent mortality who wanted to explore Eloise Woods and pick their spot. Sometimes they laid down underneath the trees, and looked up to see what their view will be. process, because a lot of times their own families don't want to talk to them about it. It's too painful. I'm safe because I'm not an emotional family member. I can actually listen to their fears and how they want to be treated after death. I make sure people understand that I do not tend the graves. I'm very Darwinian and let nature take its course. If it grows there, it can stay. Some people love all the growth over the graves and some people want no plants. They're welcome to tend the grave themselves. I'm not going to do it because I want it to look like a natural burial park. I'm hoping that in a hundred years Eloise Woods will look like native woodlands. I have a PhD in neuroscience but I've always been interested in end-of-life issues. I’ve been working on this project 24/7 for 10 years, and I haven't gotten tired of it yet. It encompasses everything that I love to do—I can be outside all day, I can have my hands in the earth, I can help people with death. I've been hugged by almost every customer and called an angel, so I know I must be on the right path. I'm so honored to be helping them through this From a conversation with John Wadsworth ELLEN MACDONALD Ellen Macdonald established Eloise Woods Community Natural Burial Park near Austin, TX in 2010. She earned a PhD in Neuroscience from the University of California at San Diego in 1989 and did post-doctoral research at Stanford University on the neurochemical mechanisms of sleep and circadian rhythms from 1989-1995. Ellen now mulches trails, clears brush and buries people and pets. She is also an active volunteer for Hospice Austin, Meals on Wheels and the Funeral Consumer Alliance of Central Texas. VOLUME III | 47