Burying the Dead- by Kaitlyn L. Osman

Kaitlyn L. Osman
Vice Grand, Emerald Bay Lodge No. 50
Funeral Service Education Student, American River College

Funeral service plays a significant role in many different cultures and has numerous
benefits for all those involved. To me, the most significant part of a funeral service is how the family and friends of the deceased all come together one more time, in memory and celebration of the life lived and lost. This coming together to bury the dead is a beautiful and meaningful aspect, and something I find very inspiring and motivational.

In the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF), we have several mission statements. The one I am personally drawn to the most is “Bury the Dead.” In modern times, this mission has somewhat fallen wayside. However, I believe by using the international Odd Fellows platform to help spread awareness about the importance of burying the dead, as well as utilizing all the modern options available, we could completely revolutionize the death industry.

Odd Fellows attending the funeral of brother William Sidney “Sid” Hatfield (1891-1921), a Police Chief of Matewan, West Virginia. He gained a degree of celebrity during the Battle of Matewan, a shootout that followed a series of evictions carried out by detectives from the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency.In 1921, brother Sid, together with Edward Chambers, was shot by Baldwin-Felts men. Hit in the arm, and three or four times in the chest, he died instantly as well as his companion Edward. There was an outpouring of grief for the fallen local heroes at the funeral, which was attended by at least 3,000 people, and conducted with full honors from the Odd Fellows, Knights of Pythias and Redmen. If you look at the last person on the right side of thus photo, you will see his regalia with our “three links” emblem.

This revolution could include reviving Odd Fellows cemeteries as well as potentially starting new ones. I hope to someday be on the Cemetery Committee for the Grand Lodge of the California, which would further my influence over this important area. If there are any future cemeteries started by the Odd Fellows, options to become green and more eco-friendly could be implemented. I have already talked to one IOOF lodge in California which is currently trying to convert their Odd Fellows cemetery to green for future usage. This is a wonderful idea, though somewhat challenging to enact, given all the requirements necessary to qualify as a truly green cemetery. I applaud this lodge for paving the way and doing much research into this topic, which they also shared with me. In the future, I believe many more cemeteries will choose to follow suit. Transforming creepy, crumbling cemeteries for future interment is a daunting project, but ultimately, I think it will need to be done for preservation of space. Of course, many jobs will be created during the process, but in my mind, the more important aspect is it will create beautiful and sacred spaces for the dead and living to mingle and coexist once again. In an ideal world, the cemetery would be maintained as an eco-friendly place to naturally inter and memorialize the dead, as well as visit and enjoy nature during one’s life in order to reflect upon where, as living beings, we will all end up.

Secondly, the revolution surrounding the death care industry relies on empowering and educating individuals about the power they hold when it comes to making these decisions for themselves and their loved ones. There are so many novel methods of disposition most people have not heard about yet. I plan to make it my mission to help spread accurate knowledge surrounding all the different modes now available to us to choose from. Odd Fellows were some of the first groups of people to utilize crematoria. Often, these were built on Odd Fellows cemetery land and the money went towards funding the cemetery. Given the staggering amount cremation has expanded over the last century, I imagine Odd Fellows could additionally capitalize on the current trend of alkaline hydrolysis or “water cremation.” Not only is this a gentler and more eco-friendly process, but it would be appropriate to utilize this newer method of burying the dead in the next generation of Odd Fellowship. Perhaps those Odd Fellows would want to donate their intact bones, which sometimes remain after water cremation, back to their lodge in remembrance of them, their death, and all this symbolizes within the ceremonies of the lodge.

Additionally, in order to fully empower each person regarding making their own disposition decisions, I would want to disclose all the newer eco-friendly options available. This includes Recompose, a company which naturally reduces remains down to soil “Healthy soil is vital for an ecosystem to thrive. It regulates moisture, sequesters carbon, and sustains plants, animals, and humans,” Recompose states on its website. Research into the soil cycle is how Recompose was first born. This is an idea which allows one to, “nurture growth on the same forest floor that inspired its creation, allowing us to give back to the earth that nourishes us all our lives.” Another inspiring option is having one’s cremated remains deposited into the ocean in order to stimulate coral reef growth. This is a beautiful option for ocean lovers who are heart broken by the increasingly despairing condition of the natural coral reefs. Mushroom suits are another cool option for those interested in preserving nature after their death. These suits of spores leech out toxins from the corpse before breaking it down into a nutrient-rich compost. The final option I want to inform people about is Capsula Mundi, or eco-friendly burial pods and urns. Capsula Mundi’s website further describes their product: “an egg-shaped pod, an ancient and perfect form, made of biodegradable material, where our departed loved ones are placed for burial.” Once the ashes are loaded into the urn or the body is placed in a pod in the fetal position,
the egg is planted into the earth like a seed. Afterwards, a plant or tree, “chosen in life by the deceased, will be planted on top of it and serve as a memorial for the departed and as a legacy for posterity and the future of our planet.” The family and friends of the deceased are then able to water and tend to the plant, while watching it grow and flourish. If this form of disposition begins to catch on, over time cemeteries will be transformed from dreary, concrete-filled landscapes into magical wooded forests.

Capula Mundi

Ultimately, I would love to write a book on this topic, as well as go around giving
speeches to different Odd Fellows Lodges during their meetings. After each event, writing pre-need funeral arrangements could be offered for anyone interested as well as answering everyone’s questions about funeral services. Bringing death back into normal conversations is key to destigmatizing the topic. Funeral services do not have to be off putting or awkward. Instead, I believe we, as human beings, but especially as Odd Fellows, should embrace this meaningful tradition of funeral services. We should once again make it our mission to “Bury the Dead” and help our brothers and sisters prepare to confidently take this final step in the journey
of life.

Works Cited


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