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Digging up old graves, to make room.

post #1 of 32
Thread Starter 
Hi, This is my first thread in IMO..

I was listening to TalkBack the other day on the radio and they were discussing a rather interesting topic. Digging up old graves to make room for new people. I wish there was an article on this so you could read a bit more about it, but I feel that people have earnt there right to a bit of land, and should be kept there even 100's of years later.. What do you think? In 200 years would you like to be dug up to make room for someone else?.. Another thing they were thinking of doing was "stand up" graves so that they could fit more coffins in a grave. Sorry if I offended anybody. I'd appreciate any comments. Sam.
post #2 of 32
Thats why I would rather be cremated. I know that goes against my maori culture but I don't want to be dug up to make room for people - I know that it will happen one day, the population is growing at an alarming rate.
post #3 of 32
Texas Cemetery Offers Eco-Friendly Burial

HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) - George Russell believes in ashes to ashes, dust to dust. No embalming fluid. No airtight caskets. No steel vaults.

That's why he offers a different kind of funeral at his Ethician Family Cemetery - Texas' first ``green cemetery.'' There, bodies are wrapped in cloth for burial under towering pine and oak trees near Lake Livingston.

``Isn't it wonderful if my body nurtures this huge oak tree, and in its branches are the nests of beautiful songbirds,'' said Russell, 58, who plans to be buried the same way at his family's private plot near the cemetery. ``In that way you really never die, because you become a part of that songbird, you become a part of that tree, you become a part of that beauty.''

The cemetery on 81 acres of dense forest about 90 miles north of Houston marks a growing trend in burial options that don't harm the environment and allow the body to decompose naturally.

Green cemeteries are common in the United Kingdom, but the first one labeled as such in the United States opened in South Carolina in 1996. Another followed in Florida, and Russell opened his in November. No national statistics track the number of green cemeteries, but Billy Campbell, president of Memorial Ecosystems in South Carolina, said a handful of others are planned around the country.

Bob Fells, external chief operating officer for the International Cemetery and Funeral Association, said it's hard to predict whether green cemeteries will become more commonplace.

``I don't think anyone really knows what things are really going to click with the public ... and what kind of things just have a novelty value,'' he said.

Terri Reed, a 52-year-old investigations assistant with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security who lives near Russell, was the first person to buy a plot in his cemetery.

Reed said traditional funerals have become too materialistic.

``I'm the kind of person who just doesn't like the way modern America commercializes everything,'' said Reed. ``I've always been interested in the idea of just being passed into the earth, you know, without all the rigamarole that the funerals go through nowadays.''

Russell had the same concerns. He said he wanted to give families an affordable alternative to funerals, which industry experts say averages around $5,000. That excludes a burial plot, which can add thousands.

Environmental reasons, not cost, motivated 59-year-old David Cocke to buy a plot. The chemistry and civil engineering professor at Lamar University says he disapproves of the huge amounts of water, pesticides and herbicides used to keep cemetery grounds immaculate. And cremation, he says, wastes energy and pollutes the air.

``You're left with not much of an alternative, if you want to be environmentally conscious about what you're going to contribute to the future pollution load,'' he said.

Russell, who owns an educational video production company in Huntsville, got the idea for the cemetery in 1968, when he and his wife lived in Central America. After watching natives bury their dead in the rainforest, he knew he would not want to spend eternity in a traditional cemetery.

``They'd lovingly dig a little grave by hand, say under the branches of a huge rain-forest tree with orchids cascading down and parrots squawking,'' he recalled. ``It was just as if you had returned to the Garden of Eden.''

The plan germinated in Russell's mind for decades before he discovered Lake Livingston and the surrounding undeveloped land and realized it was the perfect spot for his 248-plot cemetery.

The land was mapped out in the 1970s as a resort and retirement community called Waterwood. But most people who bought land there couldn't afford to build a house after the global oil slump hit in the 1980s, and it never was developed.

Russell's family wanted to preserve Waterwood, so he and his parents bought 2,500 acres near the lake, about 10 miles from the Sam Houston National Forest. Besides the cemetery, they have used the land to establish sanctuaries for alligators and eagles, a 131-acre longleaf pine preserve and a 110-acre research forest.

``I feel like the only permanent legacy that a person can leave is a piece of America the beautiful,'' Russell said. ``With this concept, even in death, in this cemetery ... that beautiful forest will always be there for everyone to enjoy.''

The cemetery's first occupant is a 40-year-old food service clerk who was estranged from his family. His friends decided to bury him at the Ethician cemetery Jan. 2.

``I think we did everything in a Christian, dignified manner. I didn't see any problems with it and wouldn't hesitate to do it again,'' said Riley Smith, the funeral director.

People who buy a plot, each of which can accommodate up to 12 graves, cannot plant flowers or cut down or damage trees. They are encouraged to install markers with short biographies of the deceased and must submit a record of the exact location of each grave using GPS equipment.

Anyone can buy a one-quarter to one-third-acre plot by making whatever donation they can afford to the Universal Ethician Church, an interfaith, ecumenical congregation that Russell founded a few years ago. Individual spaces are also available.

``I've seen so many families who spend money, sometimes tens of thousands of dollars, to pickle grandmother or their mother or their father or their child,'' he said. ``The sad thing is that we tend to be so caught up in our material selves and our material world and what other people think.''
post #4 of 32
Sam, when I first moved to Germany, I was shocked to learn that digging up remains after a period of time (10 - 30 years in our town, depending on how much you pay for the plot) is the norm. I can understand it intellectually, because, given the population density here, most towns just don't have enough room for perpetual graves. Many have started "upright burials" or "burial walls", i.e., walls with niches that promote fast decomposition of bodies. Emotionally I find it hard to take. A friend lost her 28-year-old brother and her 36-year-old husband within a six-month period in 1991. She couldn't afford more than 10-year plots, which was really devastating to her, because her children were young. She did manage to extend her husband's plot for another 10 years. I will definitely opt for cremation. The article Kellye posted was interesting. There are a few such "green" or "forest" cemetaries here, but the Catholic and Lutheran Churches are railing against them.
post #5 of 32
I think that with the balloning population, graveyards are going to have to adapt. It seems odd to me to want to take up room on this precious earth if I'm not using it
post #6 of 32
I am really against digging up old graves to make room for new people. I think cremation is a much better option. One of my reasons is that the deceased person will sometimes purchase the burial plot prior to their death, and they OWN that piece of land. My late grandparents did this, they chose a lovely spot near a beautiful shade tree, and that is where they have been laid to rest. My grandparents wanted their final resting place to be a comfortable place where the family could go to visit in the future. I strongly feel the wishes of the deceased should be respected if they are known. IMO, a grave should be permanent, I would hate to think someone could just decide to dig up my grandparents 100 years from now.
post #7 of 32
Interesting question.

I understand the reasoning behind temporary graves, given increasing population and decreasing available land. But it does seem sad to dig up someone that has been laid to rest. Also, I really enjoy visiting old cemeteries and looking at historic gravestones. It gives an insight into what death (and life) was like years ago. If our graves become temporary, that will be a historic loss to future generations.

Cremation is a good idea - I think it's better than digging up people. But what happens to all of those urns over the years?

I love the green cemetery idea. Thanks for posting that article, Kiwi. I wonder why some churches are against it? It's how people were buried before embalming techniques were refined, and before caskets became common, isn't it?
post #8 of 32
Originally posted by tuxedokitties
Cremation is a good idea - I think it's better than digging up people. But what happens to all of those urns over the years?
When I was growing up, my family went to Los Angeles to visit relatives. One of the places we went to see was Forrest Lawn because the cremains of many famous people are there. If I remember correctly, we went into a big building that had a large number of drawer-type things. Each one of these had a metal plate with the person's name, their date of birth, and date of death just like a tombstone in a cemetary. I don't see why all the urns wouldn't be there permanently.
post #9 of 32
I believe that cremation is the way to go, too. An Episcopal church, here in Tucson, has a wall in which cremains may be placed. A plaque is affixed to the niche, with name, dates, etc. Russ was cremated and buried in the National Cemetery, in Cave Creek.

Reusing gravesites is not a new concept. In New Orleans, burials are all aboveground, due to the high water table. Casket and body are placed into the tomb and, after a period of time, the remains are pushed back into another section, to make room for the next one.

My grandparents are buried in seperate cemeteries. When Granny died, my cheapskate grandfather didn't want to spend any money on her (he didn't when she was alive, either) and my parents gave her one of their plots. They sold the other one and bought two more, in a different cemetery. Seven years later, my grandfather died and they gave him one of those plots (he wouldn't buy one for himself). Now, Mom and Pop have new plots and they'd better not give one of those away!

Bill and I are both eligible for free burial in a National Cemetery. We're both opting for cremation and, if we're married by then, they'll put our cremains under the same marker. Otherwise, I'll be buried with Russ.
post #10 of 32
I absolutely love the green cemetery idea. I have not been able to make up my mind regarding burial vs. cremation. This idea sounds perfect to me. The idea of being dug up creeps me out.
post #11 of 32
Here's my rather confused two cents about this subject.

Ok firstly, spiritually I think that disturbing the dead is one of the highest offences that you could possibly make. It could also be because of my upbringing as well but I've never felt comfortable in any cemetary.

Though on a purely materialistic and economic way of looking at things I do think that graveyards will have to change in order to cope with increasing population levels. I personally think that the concept of a traditional burial will change as we know it today.

I do like the thought of a green cemetary. Giving back to the world in return for taking so much. Though I personally do not wish for that type of burial. I wish to be cremated, after my organs have been donated. I would like my ashes to be scattered over a place where the people who hold me dear can visit with treasured memories.
post #12 of 32
Thread Starter 
One of the guys who rang up on talk back had previousely worked at a cemetry and had done some work digging up old graves because the area was starting to flood, and he said after two and all the "bad things" that were happening to him he said he would never dig one up again. I too reckon it's a high offence to dig up the dead.

Kellye thanks for posting that article that's a nice way to umm leave but I think I'd still prefer to be cremated so that my family could "keep me". I had my two cats cremated, Garfield & Lolly and they are no hassle in their little box and it makes me safe knowing my two boys are there. I dunno it just seemed right for us, we never buried anything incase the dogs got to it.

Thanks for everyones views, It was interesting reading them.
post #13 of 32
Wow! I think I am going to have to take a trip down to Livingston,TX. I like the Idea of Helping the world stay beautiful!!! I am a Nature freak anyway! Why not carry it through to till after I am long gone!!

As for the diggin up the graves. If it were a family member of mine I would be outraged!!! I think that they should just start placing the new ones up right instead of unearthing the poor people that have been there for years. That way you can still keep the older ones where they have been since they got there and you can still make room for new ones. it's that simple but I guess these money grubbing people would much rather unearth all of them and rebury them in the vertical way to make more even more room for even more money.
post #14 of 32
I have never even thought about the matter, since I wish to be cremated and have my ashes scattered. I don't see that it matters what happens to my body once I die, and that holds for all my loved ones- I don't need a grave to visit, and wouldn't feel bad if they had to be "dug up" to make room. I mean, when there's only so much room, you have to figure something out. My grandparents were cremated and their ashes scattered in this special place for that, and there are no plates or anything for their names, and I've never missed having one.

Then again, I'd hate for those people to be dug up who or whose family feel it's interrupting their rest. It's an awful thought that it's up to money, that even if someone wanted a "long term" burial plot, they may not be able to afford it. But considering the value of land these days, how much is it worth to own a piece of land forever? A whole lot... Maybe it's not a nice idea, that money controls this as well, but it does.
post #15 of 32
Since we buried my Dad last October the 9th the thought of someone digging him up is very, very upsetting to me

I think that all persons that have been buried have the right to stay buried in their finally resting place without being distrubed. Anyone buried should have the respect that is their given right as a human being not to be dug up like a land fill article

My question is if they do dig someone up what is done with the remains of that person? Will the new person's family get a break on the cost of their funeral since there is already a vault in that place? This to me is just not right! It cost us close to $7000 to bury Dad. This is monies that we didn't have but we did it because we Love our Dad so much and he deserves the respect to NOT be dug up to make room for someone else.

It wouldn't be fair for the previous family to have paid for someone to use that vault....plan and simple! IMO the digging up of graves to make room for new graves is appalling to say the least. They have earned their right to stay "Resting in Peace".
post #16 of 32
I don't think I would care personally but if I had any family & friends left I think they would and I wouldn't want that to happen to them.

I love, love, love the green cemetary idea! Except I'd want my own tree.
post #17 of 32
I really like the idea of a green cemetary is someone were to be buried. I have always hated funerals, and the way funeral homes get over on grieving families, like it is disrespectful not to spend their last dime to give them a fancy one. My Dad spent $10,000 to bury my mother. I was outraged, since most of it was what was to be my daughter's college fund.
I intend to donate my body to a teaching hospital, and when they are finished with it, they will cremate it, and return my ashes to my family. I am not big on organ donation, but research that may help cure a terrible disease is a good legacy IMO.
post #18 of 32
My family decided over 20 years ago to forego viewings, funerals and burials. We call other family members and friends, put an obituary in the paper, have the deceased cremated, and scatter the ashes when the appropriate place and time are found. However, I know a lot of people who really need a place to visit and feel close to the deceased. Also, old cemeteries are very interesting to visit; there are many in France, Austria and Italy that are real tourist attractions, and just think about the number of visitors Arlington National Cemetery gets every year. I have mixed feelings. While I personally favor cremation, as a big fan of shows like "Autopsy", "Medical Detectives", and "CSI", I'm aware that sometimes justice is served only by disinterring and evaluating corpses. I also believe that by "donating your body to science", you are doing future generations good.
post #19 of 32
I have been a firm believer in cremation, simply because by law, it has been nearly impossible to arrange for a "green" burial. Green cemetaries have been against the law in most of the U.S. due to the "unsanitary" conditions of natural burials. I had not seen that article on the green cemetaries before and appreciate that information Kellye!! I will have to rethink all of this.

If I am cremated, I would like my ashes scattered to the winds. My Uncle was scattered over Gates Pass in Tucson, and I think of him each time I drive thru that area. My mom and dad always said they wanted to be scattered over Sabino Canyon in Arizona. Dad was cremated but mom was buried (in honor of her husband's request at the time). One day, I'm sure my family will have this wish fulfilled. Although against the law, I witnessed an ash scattering ceremony at one of our National Parks (a woman's brother who died from Aids). It was very touching and more my style. I have friends that have cremation urns and can't understand the point.

My husband (the extremist) has always wanted to return to the earth totally natural. No grave, no cremation, just food for whatever passes by - a way of providing for the next generation of life. If he passes before me, it's going to be really hard to fulfill that wish but I will honor it if there is a way to do it. Green cemetaries are the closest legal way to do it right now.

I bury my beloved furbabies in the yard and plant a tree over each one. Those trees do better than all others in my yard!

As far as moving graves? Since I'm a firm believer of returning a body to the earth, traditional graveyards have no meaning for me. I will remember my loved ones on how they lived their lives, rather than visiting them after they are gone.
post #20 of 32
Originally posted by Momofmany

My husband (the extremist) has always wanted to return to the earth totally natural. No grave, no cremation, just food for whatever passes by - a way of providing for the next generation of life. If he passes before me, it's going to be really hard to fulfill that wish but I will honor it if there is a way to do it.
The FBI has something called the Body Farm, where they basically track the natural dissolution of bodies under various conditions. (It's a real thing, just not the name of a Patricia Cornwall novel!)

During the coverage of a trial that I watched on Court TV (the David Westerfield trial), the prosecution had a scientist who worked there testify. At some point, when he was describing what they did there, the DA asked him where they acquired the bodies. He told them that people volunteered to leave their bodies to them, and that they actually had a waiting list. So, I guess your husband isn't the only person with that point of view.
post #21 of 32
The Body Farm is part of the University of Knoxville in TN. I find it quite fascinating that people would leave their bodies for the advancement of forensic science.
post #22 of 32
This happened to my local cemetry, where i lived as a child, and there was an outcry!.

It is wrong that they dig them up. What about people who are doing their family trees, who expect to see a great great grandparents grave, only to find that it's been exhumed.

Let them that are buried in consecrated ground be left to R.I.P.!

post #23 of 32
Recently, a book called "Stiff" was published. It details how donated bodies are used, for various research purposes: the Body Farm, automobile crash tests, teaching sugical techniques, etc. It was an excellent read.

When Russ died, he was too old to donate any of his organs and his heart and lungs were no good, anyway. I WAS able to donate his corneas and I got a nice letter, from the Eye Bank, thanking us for allowing two people to regain their sight.
post #24 of 32
I have read that book Cindy - its quite interesting how they actually use the bodies in car crash tests. Here, I had always thought that they had used dummies.
post #25 of 32
I am all for cremation myself but understand the need of others for buriel and 'somewhere to visit'. My father was cremated and on the day of his funeral it snowed. The thought of 'leaving him behind' in all that cold weather if we had buried him really upsets me, so cremation worked for us.
However on the thread topic..........I heard about this on UK radio as well and they spoke of opening up graves and digging deeper holes so two or more people could share! cosy! I wonder if they would be related or just randomly selected-very odd
post #26 of 32
Do you think it is okay for archaeologists to dig up the bodies of people who lived here before the current era began? It happens all of the time...but, is it okay?
post #27 of 32
I don't think it is okay. I think it is only okay when they need to identify victims of massacres like in South America, but digging up people just to find out about cultures isn't right. But that is just my opinion.
post #28 of 32
Thread Starter 
Originally posted by lotsocats
Do you think it is okay for archaeologists to dig up the bodies of people who lived here before the current era began? It happens all of the time...but, is it okay?
I'm not sure about this. I don't really think it's okay because they to deserve their peace but we have learned so much from it, 1000's of years later...hmmmm
post #29 of 32
Personally, once you die, your body is just part of the earth. You have no rights to it. I guess I am not against this issue. I mean, dust to dust right?
Actually, when I die, I would like my body to be cast at sea. I don't mind being food for fish. This may be illegal though, so my 2nd choice would be cremation.
post #30 of 32
When my parents bought their plots, the salesman asked if they wanted side-by-side or stacked. Mom was emphatic: "Side-by-side. I don't want to wind up on the bottom!" My thought was, "How will she know?" Stacked was less expensive and does it really matter?

My dad has made sure that everything is arranged and paid for. They have even picked out and paid for their caskets - identical except for Mom's pink satin lining. The only things that I'll have to do is call the precher to arrange for the church and pick out their clothes. I have to ask my dad if he wants graveside military honors, though. I can get a color guard from the local Marine reserve center, if he does.
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