An Earth Goddess Goes Back to the Earth

By Joe Laur

We buried Rosalind today in the forest above her home. Two dozen of us trudged up a hillside on a humid afternoon, carrying a plain pine box. Inside, wrapped in a simple shroud–fresh, not embalmed–was my dear friend of nearly four decades.

We took turns carrying the box up the wooded hillside for the better part of a half mile, until we came to a moss covered rock overlooking a ravine and a small depression in the duff covered soil. The rock was a favorite meditation and reflection place for Rosalind, and as her cancer deepened its hold on her, she asked to be buried there, stubbornly pushing her weakening body up the hill on canes and walking sticks two months before her death to make sure her partner David knew the spot. In the nearby depression a shallow hole had been dug, about three feet wide and deep and five feet long, in a spot where an owl feather had been found. It seemed a fitting omen for Rosalind, the conservation biologist…

This was a burial, not a funeral. No funeral home or service was involved in this process. Everything was done by her community of loved ones. The burial site was on a neighbor’s land, who graciously offered up the spot for this. The site had been hand dug, perked by the town, and approved for burial.

So we rested Rosalind on her rock, and shared memories, music, tears, laughter and love of our remarkable friend. Afterward we carried Rosalind to the dug grave, and lowered her gently into it. Petals were strewn under, over, and around the box, heartfelt prayers were said, led by our local rabbi, and then we turned to the task of burial.

We buried her with our own hands. No backhoe doing the job by some cemetery employee after everyone had left. We saw Rosalind through to the end. With shovels and our bare hands, we scooped and pushed the dirt into the hole over the box, until it was all covered by a mound of fresh turned soil and a few large rocks. We buried her as she had lived, consciously, naturally, and with abiding love. Just as we finished, two barred owls began hooting to each other through the forest canopy. There are no accidents.

Now Rosalind, the conservation biologist, lover of wild things and places, is slowly returning to the earth, the land and the living systems she loved so dearly. Her flesh and bone will become soil and microbe, earthworm and insect, flower and forb, shrub and creature and tree. I often joke on these pages how we are all “headed for the compost bin” to be ultimately recycled. Rosalind will literally become the forest she lies within, and we will hear her voice in the hoot of a barred owl, see her sway as a hemlock in the winter wind, feel her soft touch in the duff beneath our feet as we come back from time to time to visit this place.

Rosalind will move through death and spring back to life as thousands of beings. Rosalind is dead. Long live Rosalind. My old friend, the biologist, a student of living things, is out there in the forest, dancing with the life she has always loved.

Reprinted with permission of Joe Laur, (2015)

An Earth Goddess Goes Back to the Earth
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