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.
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