What should be done with this body of mine when, as the saying on many old New England tombstones goes, I have departed this life? Over the years I spent writing a novel starring a gravedigger, this question crept gradually from the back of my mind to the fore of it. My protagonist, Ben, champions green burials at a graveyard inspired by Forest Hills Cemetery (more on that later), and he devotes a share of his free time to creating a burial suit laden with mushroom spores, designed to turn his remains into “some really nice compost.”
Through several drafts of the novel, Ben both reflected and inspired my burgeoning plans for making an environmentally friendly transition from flesh to dust. Though I wasn’t up for engineering my own burial suit, I started to picture myself being lowered, free of a casket and embalming chemicals, into a hole in some conservation land, a possibility that an episode of the HBO series “Six Feet Under” first brought to my attention. Then my father died.