It was a perfectly ordinary Tuesday in late autumn, when I heard the doorbell ring. On the porch stood a wild-eyed woman, a casual acquaintance, who was shouting something. Over the din of two barking dogs, I could just make out, “I-want-you-to-make-me-a-burial-shroud!” Should I slam the door and call 911, sic the dogs on her, or grab a bottle of Chardonnay and invite her in? I went with the wine option, and so began a great adventure with Sara Williams, Certified Home Funeral Guide and Green Burial advocate. A couple of glasses later, I was persuaded, converted, intrigued, and totally on board. Here’s how it went:
A shroud, I thought, innocently, should be simpler to create than a garment. There would be no need for pesky sleeves, collars, and the like. However, there were some.... unique design requirements. Besides being simple and dignified, it must:
- ~ Cover a variety of body types
- ~ Be easily and neatly secured in place
- ~ Be easily carried by the pallbearers
- ~ Be biodegradable, and of organic fabric
I was used to creating all sorts of garments using my dressmaker’s mannequin, but realized that I now needed something different – a full body model. At the local Goodwill, I was able to recruit two: Mabel and Deceased Barbie (see earlier posts). Finding a supplier of organic cotton fabric willing to sell me less than 100 yards came next.
An internet search turned up three basic types of shroud: bed sheet, sack, and burrito. All left a lot to be desired, design-wise. My two models were infinitely patient while I worked out and refined the details of an ideal shroud. The final design is expandable, without being bulky at the head and feet, and the ties and carrying handles are elegantly integrated. If needed, a back board may be easily added. Sara was thrilled! Mabel and Deceased Barbie had no comment.
The body drape provides an ideal place for custom decoration. Sara, who sees life as a journey, requested a personalized map and a pocket for her fresh lavender and rosemary. The sheer silk veil was my idea, in part because I can’t sleep unless my face is covered. More importantly, it allows the vigilers (vigilantes?) to have their loved one be emphatically present and unveiled, or veiled and at a slight symbolic remove.
I am proud to be part of the emerging movement to simplify and personalize burial. The name of my business? REMAINS TO BE SEEN! (Sara snorted and choked on her Chardonnay.)
Pat's business card