Local cemetery accommodates a new trend for people's last wish
WAUKESHA - Ashes to ashes and dust to dust. Those words are taken quite literally by many. And now a Waukesha cemetery is making sure our loved one's who've past become part of the Earth as quickly as possible.
Annette Kirchen lost her father about a year ago.
"Our family believes in living a simple life," says Annette.
A simple life with a simple burial: instead of a tombstone, a field of prairie; instead of a casket, a shroud.
"My dad really wanted a shroud. Because that was the quickest way to become part of the Earth again," explains Annette.
It's called a natural burial. A body is quite simply put into the ground and buried. If there is a casket it must be biodegradable.
"It sounds kind of crazy but when I found out about this I was so excited," remembers Annette.
Annette's dad was a monk. He left the monastery just before taking his final vows.
"It really did influence his life quite greatly," says Annette.
And it influenced his final wishes.
"What he really wanted when he died was to be buried like the monks were," says Annette.
It's a type of burial that's not so easy to find. But there is a growing demand.
"Once the news got out that we are doing this we started getting inquiries from all over the state and even in the Chicago area," says David Brenner, manager at Prairie Home Cemetery.
The cemetery now has a full section devoted to natural burials, a full prairie. There are not any tombstones.
"We recognize that not everyone wants a shrouded, unembalmed body placed in the soil," he says.
"We are going to own a piece of the prairie," says Marilyn Lacourt with a laugh.
Marilyn Lacourt and her husband Robert Stone already bought their plot at Prairie Home.
"He's an organic gardener so we like the natural stuff," explains Marilyn.
Robert says he likes the idea that their bodies will act as compost and make things grow.
In the committal area of the prairie there are stones that will have the names of those buried in the prairie engraved. Annette does not mind not having a tombstone for her dad marking the exact spot where her father was laid to rest.
"Because the person when they are gone becomes spirit," she says.
Still, she comes to the prairie often to be close to her dad, and remember the simplistic values of life.
"He was a wonderful father. And it was so meaningful for us to know that one final thing that we could do for him that we could honor that," Annette says.
Prairie Home Cemetery digs the graves six feet. Brenner says that is still well above the water table. However, because there is no casket that is why embalming isn't allowed when being buried this way. It's considered a "green" burial without any chemicals.