- We have done ourselves a disservice by not having a talk about death.
Oftentimes, they place a foot on the conveyor belt of end-of-life care and they're swept away.
- Most anybody that I know has never experienced a home funeral or a natural burial.
They don't know how to do it because no one's offering it.
- Everybody's life, you leave a legacy.
And John would help their family remember that legacy.
But also, to put one foot in front of the other after losing someone close to you.
- This will be the first of what I believe many mindful, beautiful endings but beginnings.
♪ [ambient music] [shoveling] [acoustic Americana music] ♪ ♪ - People love to talk about death.
I mean, when it's not happening to them.
You know what I mean?
They don't like to talk about death in relation to themselves, they like to talk about death like, Oh my God.
Did you hear about that car wreck?
Did you hear about so-and-so that died?
Or did you hear they found the body over there?
Oh my God.
As long as it's not affecting them, that's when people will talk about it.
This kind of burial ground has not been done-- nobody's done it before here.
So that's good.
Because we get to be the first and we don't have a precedent that we have to follow.
But at the same time, nobody's done it here.
So we're figuring a lot of stuff out on the way.
Learning a little here and a little there as we create this.
[interposing voices] - I started, realistically, in the funeral business when I was probably six or seven.
I had a small cemetery at the edge of the woods where I grew up on the farm.
And I would find these little grasshoppers and dead birds and different things.
And I don't know what really struck me to stop and pay tribute or to create this moment of remembrance, but I did it.
And it stuck with me through my high school days.
And right after high school, my grandfather passed away.
And I quickly became involved in working at my local funeral home.
After about 15 years in the conventional funeral industry, as an embalmer and managing a funeral home and seeing families and planning funerals on a day-to-day basis, I realized that the conventional funeral industry, for me, wasn't good enough.
And it didn't truly meet the needs of the individuals we were serving or the environment.
♪ The industry has perpetuated a mystery and myth surrounding American death culture.
Myself, you, most anybody that I know has never experienced a home funeral or a natural burial.
They don't know how to do it because no one's offering it.
And they're not offering it because it doesn't profit the funeral industry that's created this method that's made them a lot of money.
And I'd planned my whole life to be this person, this funeral director that cared for people.
But I just was like, there's got to be a better way to do this.
Becca Stevens, who is the founder of Magdalene House and Thistle Farms, and she's also the Episcopal priest over here at Saint Augustine's Chapel, she calls me and she says, I understand that you have particular interest in natural burial and end-of-life practices and how to make those better.
And then she said, can we talk?
We formed a nonprofit called Larkspur Conservation, which you have paperwork for in front of you.
We are setting out to create the state's first conservation burial ground, which is essentially a nature preserve, much like Radnor Lake, where you can also be laid to rest.
We have a 155-acre tract of land in Sumner County that we're purchasing first.
This particular land will probably use a quarter, if not a third, for actual burial.
The rest will be left completely natural.
And we will create an open green space, place the entire project under conservation, and it will be protected forever.
So those people that are laid to rest there and buried there don't have to be embalmed, they don't have to spend excessive money on an expensive metal casket, no vaults are allowed, no metal caskets, no foreign materials or contaminants are allowed.
People are laid to rest like they always have been throughout history.
And your body has one last purpose that's very valuable and can help save land for your community.
A lot of people always say, well, I'm just going to be cremated because I don't want to take up space when I die.
Well, this is the kind of taking up space that's good.
So we're using actually over my dead body-- you've heard that phrase-- over my dead body, exactly, we're going to save this land.
[distant cars and kids playing] - Becca had the idea, principally, for what Larkspur is.
- You were just the first person she reached out to try to make it happen, or-- - She had already shared the idea with Don and Tara and Gina.
And then they reached out to me as someone who actually had industry experience and could be somebody that could physically run the operation, you know what I mean?
I feel like it was totally kismet and universal and just divine.
[birds chirping] - The natural burial service I attended, they were closer to the death.
Do you know what I mean?
There wasn't all that distance, there wasn't fake grass, there wasn't folding chairs.
It was like we were present and the body was right there.
And the community was able to come closer.
That's a huge spiritual benefit.
I mean, I do believe that love never dies and all that we love in a person doesn't die.
But you are still grieving a lot.
And so to have the ability to have the community participate and be close, I think helps people in the first weeks, especially after a death.
- I find what helps the grieve process are probably two things.
One is just being real, meaning not burying myself in language that's medical, not burying myself in the technicalities of what's going on here or there but just to be real the way I would talk to a friend, my husband, my kids about just the reality of the situation, and sometimes just how crummy it is.
Doctors put on white coats, we try really hard to put on our game face, not for any other reason but because that's how we've been trained.
And I think it's important for people to be able to see that this affects us too.
Because grief is connection to other people.
And I think that gives people some meaning.
And I think the other thing is grief is normal and it's a healthy reaction to being able to deal with a loss.
And I think if we pretend that only weak people grieve and strong people just tough it out and are fine, I think we're also missing the boat.
It's a normal reaction.
I mean, we teach our kids-- when their grandfather, my father-in-law passed away-- it's OK to be sad.
We're celebrating who he is and it's OK to be sad in front of each other because it's a function of how much that person meant to you.
And that's just a normal part of life.
And I think people sometimes forget the normalcy in that.
- Well, there's a book out there called Smoke in Your Eyes.
And her and John kind of followed the same premise that death needs to be real to people.
We've made it such a sanitary thing that people will not-- now won't even take days off from work to come to a funeral.
Life needs to stop for a little bit for folks to grieve.
With her, Smoke in Your Eyes talks about different things, such as seeing a person unembalmed, in their natural form.
A lot of people don't see that.
A lot of people see that after we've pumped them full of embalming fluid and put them in their nicest clothes and put them in a casket.
[wind and car noise] [truck engine] - So on the right here is 178 acres of lands that the Nature Conservancy owns.
- Known as Taylor Hollow State Natural Area, a class II state scientific natural area.
It's one of the most biodiverse areas in Tennessee.
It is known for its prolific wildflower population.
Several endangered species flourish there.
- Here's where we're going to be turning in.
John Christian always wants to go farther first.
And our land does run down to the road here and for another 200 or 300 yards, up the road with the creek running into it.
- So all this through here.
In 1998, my grandfather died, and I was moved by the experience.
And I went to the funeral home that summer and hung out on the evening of a thunderstorm because the embalmer had called and said, if you're considering potentially being a funeral director, you should come join me when I embalm someone to make sure that you can handle it.
I met him and we went into the basement of the funeral home.
I watched this gentleman be embalmed.
And the electrical storm killed all the power halfway through.
And all you could hear was water running down the porcelain table while this man's blood was being drained.
That was my first experience with someone being embalmed or being close to a dead person.
And right after that, I began working part time at the funeral home.
And that fall, it was 1998, I went into Mortuary College in Nashville, Tennessee at a college called John A. Gupton and ended up working at Stockdale-Malin in Camden, took care of family members, friends, neighbors, old age, tragic death.
You name it.
I lived above the funeral home after graduation.
I moved in and created my own environment.
I even remember having friends who lost children and they, after having a visitation and seeing the body and being downstairs with the public, I remember them coming up to my apartment to just breathe and let it all go.
I was at Stockdale-Malin for a few years.
And the company that owned the funeral home asked me to transfer to Dixon, Tennessee, which was a small town between Camden and Nashville.
And I was the primary person that did all of the embalming and took care of all of the bodies and went out on all of the funerals.
Again, the company that I worked for had a position for a need for a funeral director and embalmer in Nashville.
And I ended up taking that position.
And I worked in Nashville for about seven years, probably, before taking my leap of faith.
- I've been able to work alongside him for many years.
I quickly promoted him onto our leadership team.
He really had built a strong reputation of being a great embalmer.
And then when he started seeing families and making arrangements, the respect grew even more for how well-rounded he is that, not only is he talented in helping with the care of the loved one themselves, like the embalming and preparation, but also with being able to see families, to help them through their journey.
And not everybody that's in our profession is able to do both and to do them well, and he is.
When he serves a family, he does not look at it as setting service times, writing an obituary, having a family select a service and merchandise.
He takes it far beyond that.
And that's one of the things that I've always respected and admired about him.
He looks for the things that mean something to the family.
It's the small things that make the biggest impact and it means the most.
There was a service that he had had for a young girl that had passed away and she loved princesses.
And he gave her a princess funeral.
It was just something that would take your breath away.
When someone would come in to the visitation, literally, she was like a sleeping princess.
He took so much time in setting everything up.
And that's the service that I can say that I will always remember and I associate John Christian with because of what he gave to the parents that have had such a tragic loss of a child.
Everybody's life, you leave a legacy.
And John Christian has always looked for what their legacy is and what would help their family remember that legacy but also have that healthy journey that it takes to be able to put one foot in front of the other after losing someone close to you.
[somber music] - I mean, the majority of the good stuff that I've seen is along this way, where we came that day where the power lines cut through.
It's really good right through here and right up in here and then around this way and then kind of up in here.
And then up in here, it's really up high and ridgy.
And you remember up in here, it's high and ridgy too.
But there's possibilities for burial there too.
Meadow restoration is the fun part, and people like flowers and stuff.
So the opportunity to be able to have open meadow burial with wildflowers growing that in the situation where we would do a burn off or we would do a controlled burn or bring in goats to eat off-- - The goats are pretty fun.
- --the bad stuff every year, there's a lot of natural burial grounds that are doing that.
And from what I've understood, they get a lot of good press about it.
- They're like, oh, let's take the kids to the goats and fun stuff like that, but anyway.
Blue-eyed Mary grows all along that waterway, all the way down in front of our property.
- That's cool.
- I noticed that when we were there that day.
- I'm just amazed that this may be the only entrance to Taylor Hollow.
- I think it is.
It really is protected.
- Are you apprehensive about anything going into this meeting?
- What are you filming?
- I don't know.
Me, I guess.
We're working on a documentary over a three-year process.
Have a good one.
- We're making a-- - I should have said porn.
Porn-- you should see what's going on in the back seat.
- [laughs] - I think really the main purpose of today's meeting is just to talk about this a little more.
- We actually thought that by keeping our 25 acres down towards the road, that it's going to actually give you guys easier access, particularly up in across here.
- We'll work it out once, instead of going back like that - Yeah, it goes more that way.
- And I would like to take this to daddy's lawyer.
I really want you all to have it.
This has got my father's name written all over it.
- He didn't rant a whole lot, but if you had ever heard him on the funeral industry and all that business, he-- - Oh, that's awesome.
- Oh, you never told us that part.
- Well, he was from Robertson County and saw people from the time he was a small child be basically preyed upon by people who did that sort of thing.
And it just always got all over him.
And he would always refer to cemeteries as skull orchards.
He would say what a waste of good real estate.
- Well, he sounds like a man after my own heart.
- Well, yeah.
- That would be great.
I would love that.
- All right.
[coughs] - I don't know if we need to do a big public campaign.
I don't know.
- Tell me what you're thinking.
- I don't know what I'm thinking except we're not going to get it done the way we're thinking about doing it right now.
Do you think I'm wrong about that?
- We've got about six or eight people who are waiting for us to say... - It's on.
- ...it's a go.
So they've been thinking about their plans.
I didn't know.
- And who else to get involved.
- OK. - And so I think out of that group of six or so, I could get over $50,000.
Maybe-- - So what concerns me is that we're either going to hit around 75 to 90 and then that's-- - Maxed out.
- And then maybe you build-- I mean, maybe we just have two phases of fundraising.
I don't know.
But I'm just worried that-- on one hand, it doesn't sound like a big number to raise.
But on the other hand, it's a big number to raise.
- Enthusiasm is not dollars.
- And it's only after we make the ask for those folks that we start getting a sense of-- - Where we're going to be.
- And how hard it's going to be or how doable it is.
But we don't know till we try.
[interposing voices] - By saving this 155 acres of land and purchasing it outright by the end of January, we will have the opportunity to create a shift in the death culture within our community, help people with a less expensive mode of burial but also a more mindful mode of burial and saying goodbye at the end of life.
I'm so glad you all are here.
I want you to stay and chat with me about what natural burial is, about what it means, about exactly what we're going to be doing, and all the little idiosyncrasies.
We'll start that conversation.
- How many people can you bury on this land?
- On this particular property, 5,000 to 10,000.
The idea is we're creating a nature preserve.
So the whole thing won't be used for burials.
It won't be side-to-side rows of people with stones.
It won't look anything like that.
It'll be like Radnor Lake when you're walking along.
There may be an acre here that's used for burial, an acre here used for burial.
The idea is, also, our primary goal is to save land.
We're saving land, placing it under a conservation easement with the Nature Conservancy of Tennessee or another like-minded conservation entity.
And we will create more of these after the first one.
After we have the funds to purchase this first tract, we will be able to use the funds generated from each burial on this property to save more tracts of land around the city, reinforcing the tree canopy, the green space, the places where kids can go just to be in utter nature.
- You can also hike all through Taylor Hollow which has a lot of endangered wildflowers.
And I mean, it's really a beautiful display.
And then right adjacent to that, which is part of the reason we're interested in this property, is that you can just walk from one right over to the other and around, make it a big loop.
So it's pretty.
- Until we have this land, we're turning people away that are reaching out to us at the end of life, saying, my mom just died.
And this is what she wanted.
And we have to say, I'm sorry.
There's not a place like this in Tennessee yet.
[slow cello music] I can't just stop thinking about it.
I'm constantly thinking about it.
I have no lack of faith in what I'm doing or the fact that I know I can do it and do it well and help these people.
It's just the minutiae of how to make sense of and keep your sanity while waiting on death.
Now, if I had somebody like another person that could worry about it one day while I didn't worry about it, it would be different.
I'd be like, OK, well, today, I'm off.
I can relax a little bit more.
I don't have to be completely consumed with this today.
[slow cello music] ♪ I can't just stop thinking about it.
I'm constantly thinking about it.
[mid-tempo ambient music] ♪ ♪ - In 2012, I started really getting to a point in my professional career where I started doing some soul searching and envisioning for long term.
Since I was 20 years old, I'd only ever worked at the funeral home.
And I'd only ever given all of my energy to this.
And working for, at that time, a corporation or company that was owned by people that I didn't really know that well but had goals of their own.
I felt like I played an important role in the funeral home, locally and helping people.
But when you work in a funeral home and you work in a cemetery, you see people's lives reflected every day in everything you do.
And I didn't want to see my life reflected in the way that I saw it when I really looked at it.
I wanted to do something bigger.
Not big at Disney World big, but big in a way that it affected people, in the way it touched people's hearts, the way it changed people's experiences while they were alive.
Right before Thanksgiving and Christmas, I took a train.
I took the train around the country.
I wanted to absolutely get myself out of my box, push myself beyond my normal limits.
I went from Memphis to Chicago, made my way through Minneapolis and across the northern states to Seattle, then down to San Francisco, ultimately to Los Angeles.
So I would sit down for a lunch on the train, in the train car, and I would always be sitting across from somebody that I didn't know.
They would always ask, well, what are you doing on the train?
Where are you headed?
And my response was, well, I just quit my job and am trying to do some soul searching and determine what's on the other side of this train travel and this trip that I'm on where I'm trying, really, to meet folks like you and find out what's important to you for end of life.
Because I've only ever talked to people who were in the throes of death and had had a loved one that had just died.
I was trying to find out who I was but also who they are and what's important to them and who it is and what's important to it.
Being in life.
What is this big thing that we're all participating in and we're just all walking along complacent with?
Or are we?
How can we actually participate in this big, wild thing called live and make a positive impact on the world and our communities?
If I'd stayed at the funeral home and sat in the room and sold caskets out of a book and this and that, in and out every day, I might not have-- I mean, I wouldn't be where I am now.
[interposing voices] - Carter's not even seen the final printed copy.
- Aw, I love the font already.
- We put our heads together and created a potential map of what it could be like.
Again, you go through and you see our team.
And then on the back, our volunteer and donate information.
I mean, when you touch it, you're just like, whoa.
This is nice.
These people are for real.
- Do you want to have these odd numbers, or do you want to round them?
- Well, what we liked was the idea of people thinking in terms of buying this acre.
- So it just really sort of reinforced the fact that they're helping us buy this.
It's just not cash, they can actually think about it in terms of-- - So that's $1,800 to buy an acre?
- --we knew we'd have one person.
1,800 for it.
If we had a 10-acre society, we'd probably have more movement.
But it's kind of a small society.
- Well said.
- My friend, Happy, she works for WSMV, and she's passionate about our project.
And she has actually already spoken to people.
She's like, let me know when you're ready for this to be a news story because I want to make it one.
And we want to be able to tell the story first on News Channel 4, Working 4 You.
We've got 351 on our newsletter list-- or our-- - Email.
- --email list.
- And they're all going to get-- - They will all receive it-- - Today.
- --when we hit.
- Just ask them to post it on their Facebooks?
- This is the email blast that will go out.
- Press release, video, donate, and all of our social media.
- Larkspur conservation in Sumner County Tennessee is a beautiful park-like setting with hiking trails and picnic areas and, soon, occasional burial plots.
It's part of a new partnership with the Nature Conservancy, offering families a greener and cheaper way to lay to rest their loved ones on protected land.
It will be a place where the land will be preserved, but the bodies will go back to dust.
For NPR News.
I'm Amy Eskind in Nashville.
- Imagine being buried in your grandmother's quilt instead of in a casket.
It is a concept a local nonprofit is bringing to Tennessee for the first time.
- It's called a natural burial ground.
The goal is to preserve green spaces.
Natural burials, by the way, are also cheaper.
The typical funeral can cost more than $15,000.
The average natural burial costs about $4,000.
- John Christian Phifer is the executive director of Larkspur Conservation and has worked as a funeral director in Tennessee for about 15 years.
Now, he wants to conserve this land and turn it into the state's first green burial ground, what he calls a living memorial.
- We don't use any chemicals, we don't use any plastics or concretes.
We don't put those things into the Earth, especially in a nature preserve like we're creating so that it doesn't hamper the ecosystem.
- Phifer is hoping to have the site up and running by spring of next year.
For News Channel 5, I'm Kristen Skovira.
[gentle piano music] ♪ - I'm taking notes.
[song on the radio] (song) ♪ And I promise I'm not playing.
♪ - I kind of have a measurement for this.
But today, I'm not going too much.
(song) ♪ Break it down.
[banging] [country song on the radio] (song) ♪ Love you, baby.
Love you, darlin'.♪ [rattling] [tapping] ♪ [rattling] [tapping] ♪ - Hey, John?
- Taste of those and see if they're done, finished, if they're soft.
- OK. - Let me see.
Can I see it?
- I think its mother had been hit by a car.
And our cousins had horses and a farm down on the Sandy River, and they'd nursed this little fawn and kept it alive until they could release it.
- It was kind of like a pet for them.
They fed it.
It was just a pet.
Well, it had just gotten really comfortable with everybody.
Years ago, I was probably 10 or 11, but we were down at my grandmother's at Harmon's Creek.
That day, on the well house where we had a big bucket that we lowered down and pulled up and everybody would take a ladle and drink, there was a little blue parakeet that had landed on the well house.
And he became one of my first pets that was not a dog.
I saved a few of his feathers from his cage.
I guess this is what preservation was, duct tape and Saran Wrap.
I remember taking care of him.
And I'd already started this small little cemetery where I would go into the kitchen drawer and I'd grab a fork.
And I would run out to the edge of the woods.
And I had this safe, secret little place.
And I would dig a hole with the fork and I would bury little grasshoppers and things.
But this time, my parakeet Billy died.
And I used a school box for crayons and pencils just like this one, just exactly like this one.
And-- [sniffing] I love the smell of that-- and I lined the box with tissue and my mom had an arrangement of flowers.
And they were fake flowers.
And I guess I thought that would last and that was the idea.
But I grabbed a flower and I made a little pillow and I put the flower in there and then I laid Billy in on his back, on the pillow, like you do with people.
But I'm a little kid.
This is like what I think it's supposed to be.
And I close up the crayon box, and I take duct tape and I just duct tape around the box because-- I don't know where I'd seen or heard of that or what the idea of burial and preservation meant or why-- I thought that was something that had to happen.
Or if it was like you're locking away a treasure that you want to remember and to be able to remember it, you have to have it intact somewhere.
When what I should have done is what I did with all those grasshoppers and just wrapped him in leaves and let its body go back to the Earth instead of putting it in a plastic box wrapped in duct tape in the ground.
But it's funny the things we do as kids, and it's funny the things that led to where I am today.
I still love the smell of crayons.
It's the best.
[MUSIC: MIKE VIOLA "KING KONG HAND"] ♪ There's a satellite dish bolted on the house ♪ ♪ next door.
♪ ♪ It's not even hooked up, the cord's just dangling.
♪ ♪ You've seen this before.
♪ ♪ All that information, I just can't hold on to it.
♪ ♪ My mind is not a safe, my mind's a conduit.
♪ ♪ Small electric waves surround all living things.
♪ ♪ Some call it a halo or an aura.
♪ ♪ It's just the feeling when I'm singing.
♪ ♪ How am I to know when everything is right, ♪ ♪ when I'm barreling through this world, running every red light?
♪ ♪ And how am I to know when you say is what you mean, ♪ ♪ when I'm barreling through this world of forest evergreen?
♪ ♪ Baby, baby, baby, don't give up on us.
♪ ♪ Let's grow old together.
♪ ♪ ♪ I've got a plant, its leaves all-- ♪ - Pivotal moments in life, how do you go through life and really invest yourself in every bit of the moment that you're currently in, you know what I mean?
- So I'm thinking to myself, I should be happier than I am.
Or I should be like á*á*á*á*á*á* myself.
Or because I've worked so long on this, I don't know, just try to celebrate.
It's been a long time coming.
Four years now?
More than four years?
And then-- let's see, how many years have I been invested in funeral work?
And then, long before that, as a kid burying anything that I could find in the yard, in the woods, on the farm, you know?
Wrapping grasshoppers in leaves, digging graves with forks.
- So it's a big day.
- Yeah, it's a big day.
It's like when you put it in that perspective, it's a huge day.
[MUSIC: MIKE VIOLA - "KING KONG HAND"] ♪ (SINGING) [inaudible] [glasses clanging] - To Larkspur.
- To onward.
I was thinking about right in here being the spot since it's a little bit further away from the roots of the trees.
And you see how that top, the canopy, is?
That's generally as far out as where the roots are going to go.
[leaves crunching] [coughs] [crunching] - That may be a root right there.
- There's a stump there.
- Yeah, maybe a rock or something.
[shoveling] [sawing] - In 2013, we started the nonprofit to create this place.
We didn't know where this place would be, but this place came to us.
And the community rallied around us in support and helped us purchase this 112 acres.
And this first simple act of burial, the return to Earth, the return to nature, the return to God and source.
This will be the first of what I believe many mindful, beautiful, endings, but beginnings.
I feel like there's a great number of humans that are evolving during this time.
They're becoming more and more considerate, not only of how they treat each other, but how they treat the planet and how they're going to leave it for future generations.
I think conservation burial plays a huge role in that.
I think places like Larkspur will continue to grow.
It will not become the only way.
There will always be other options, there will always be cremation, there will always be traditional vaulted embalmed burial.
But I think more and more people will choose conservation and natural burial as an option at the end of their lives, especially in the years to come.
The most obvious challenge, and I come back to it every time, what's the hardest thing?
What's the biggest challenge?
Education of the general public.
We have so done ourselves a disservice by not having a talk about death.
What happens now is we come to the end of life and we have decisions to be made.
And we have no idea how to make those decisions.
We don't know what mom wanted because she never said it.
We never felt comfortable in having the conversation with her at the dinner table when that's when we should have had it.
People are just so ignorant as to what their options are and how they can actually do end of life that they oftentimes place a foot on the conveyor belt of end-of-life care and they're swept away.
I'll let David kick it off.
David's kind of our head of education, if you will.
He's really good at it and you'll see why.
So I'll let him take it over from here.
- I always like to start with definitions so we can build a foundation in language together.
So when we talk about natural burial, it means that three things are happening, there's no embalming, there are no vaults or outer burial containers, think big, concrete, steel, bronze, copper boxes that are put into the ground in a conventional cemetery before someone is buried.
And then lastly, that whatever is used in the burial process has to be natural, biodegradable.
The word that I'm using more these days is compostable.
If you put it in your garden, would it break down?
Granite might be natural and biodegradable, but it's not on the time scales that we're talking about.
So what we're talking about are things that might facilitate decomposition.
As you do your research, you're going to find that there's different kinds of cemeteries that allow for natural burial.
There are hybrid cemeteries, those are really normally going to be either conventional cemeteries or sometimes historic ones that just set aside a space for natural burial to occur, for people to have that as an option.
The next tier up are natural burial grounds.
Those are cemeteries that only and exclusively do natural burial.
And then the last tier are conservation burial grounds that, like the natural ones, only allow for natural burial but combine that with land conservation efforts.
- Death is a weird, crazy little thing that we as a society have never been taught how to handle or deal with or talk about.
It's something that's not comfortable to talk about with those that we love because we love them.
And it makes us sad a lot of times.
But one of the things that we have found is if that you have just a simple conversation, no matter where it starts, if you just have that conversation, it's incredibly helpful to your friends, your family, and to your own peace of mind for when something does happen.
Because, hey, we're all in this thing together.
I don't know anybody that's lived forever yet, so.
I guess we've all got that in common, but.
[leaves crunching] - I think that one of the advantages of Larkspur is John's experience as a funeral director.
There are some folks across the country who are very pro-natural burial and very anti-funeral home.
And we have to find a way to work together.
I believe what we do as funeral directors, I believe that we provide a valuable service to people.
I believe that everything has its place.
I would like to see more people trying to work together than against each other in other areas.
Doesn't happen here.
In my opinion, doesn't happen here.
But there have been occurrences with funeral homes in the past where people have been taken advantage of and, essentially, for lack of a better term, preyed upon during their time of need.
I don't think that's always been the case.
I think there's been situations where people make emotional decisions.
But it's not our job to tell people what they need or what they want.
It's our job to walk through with them, guide them, direct them.
And we don't need to try to give them something that they don't need.
They tell us what they want and we make that happen for them.
- I wouldn't be sitting where I am without the experience of the conventional and traditional funeral industry.
Without all of these little odd idiosyncrasies and things that happened along the way that combined with my growing up on a farm and being so connected to nature, I wouldn't be who I am in the position that I am.
And I don't know that Larkspur would be here without that.
And you can just swing it open and it will close itself.
[engine running] [jeep roaring] [inaudible] gravel right through here.
I think with conservation burial, we have the opportunity to have two things happen at once.
You have the opportunity to restore and heal an environment in an ecosystem.
And then you have this opportunity to help a family during the time of death, move through and transition into a new appreciation of a life that was, but also have the opportunity to better appreciate their own life and their own existence.
So if you look at it, it's kind of like we're healing the Earth.
And at the same time, on the other side of the coin, we're healing hearts.
We're healing individuals.
We're offering two modules for healing, both of the environment and of the person.
And just by opening up space and creating that space for people to come together in nature and do that, that's where we have these folks that walk away from this experience saying, I can't explain what just happened.
That was so profound.
Why haven't we been doing it this way for so long?
[crickets] [crickets continue] [footsteps] My name is John Christian and this is David.
We are the team here at Larkspur.
And we welcome you to Taylor Hollow.
Today's ceremony is going to be a beautiful one as we're right at sunset and the light is casting across the meadow and we're underneath a big tulip poplar.
So we're going to have a really beautiful walk up into the preserve.
And then we'll all gather around.
We will have some time for sharing and then we'll begin the process of lowering Cory's body, his shell, into the grave.
And then we'll all take turns in participating and covering and filling the grave in completely before we leave this afternoon.
I want to introduce Christopher who is our director that's here with us today from the funeral home that's provided help.
If you need anything, you can reach out to him for assistance and support today.
I'll turn it over to David.
Is there anything that I've missed or that you would like to share?
- I think the only thing that I would stress to everybody is that this is for you.
So anywhere where you feel called to, you feel that it's meaningful, we want you to participate.
This is a community act and I'm really excited to see that so many of you all came out today.
This place is open from dawn to dusk every single day for folks to visit and hike and be outside.
So whenever you feel called to, whether it's to visit Cory or to just go for a hike, this place is for you.
[MUSIC: duendita, "Bury Me"] ♪ I want to sit down in your arms.
♪ ♪ Wrap me in wonder.
♪ ♪ Keep me safe and strong.
♪ ♪ I want to hear your name and recognize you as my own.
♪ ♪ Bury me beneath our home.
♪ ♪ When I first saw your light, oh, it took me by surprise.
♪ ♪ Now I can't let you go.
♪ ♪ You're the only thing I need to know.
♪ ♪ And here I am at your feet.
♪ ♪ And only you can comfort me.
♪ ♪ There's a voice deep inside.
♪ ♪ And it tells me that you're my life.
♪ ♪ I want to sit down in your arms.
♪ ♪ Wrap me in wonder.
♪ ♪ Keep me safe and strong.
♪ ♪ I want to hear your name and feel the hum within my bones.
♪ ♪ Bury me beneath our home.
♪ ♪ I want to hold you till we see the light, Wrap you in wonder, ♪ ♪ kiss you every night.
♪ ♪ I want you to look at me and see yourself.
♪ ♪ I want to love you and no one else.
♪ [vocalizing] ♪ Oh, all I need.
- These kind of properties, you feel like with your loved ones, you had no control in the end.
But then when that pivots and they're free to find a place like this where we know this is what you would want.
We are returning you to where you started.
We are giving you beauty and nature and a spiritual experience with the world, with the planet that he loved so much.
And I'm just grateful.
["Bury Me" continues] ♪ Wrap me in wonder.
♪ Keep me safe and strong.
♪ I want to hear your name and recognize you as my own.
♪ ♪ Bury me beneath our home.
♪ When I first saw your light, [vocalizing] oh, ♪ ♪ it took me by surprise.
♪ Now I can't let you go.
♪ You're the only thing I need to know.
♪ ♪ Here I am at your feet.
♪ And only you can comfort me.