We’ve Never Regretted a Private Burial

Have you ever looked at a special place and thought, “I’d like to be buried there”? Such a simple wish may not be so simple to fulfill.

| December 2011/January 2012

  • wooden-cross
    Have you ever looked at a special place and thought, “I’d like to be buried there”? Such a simple wish may not be so simple to fulfill.
  • light-wood-coffin
    A private-property burial can be as elegantly spare or as luxurious as you wish.
  • dark-gray-headstone
    A headstone (which can cost $1,000 or more) is an option even in an unconventional location.
  • dark-cross-in-flowers
    Many people say they’d prefer a simple pine box and a natural marker to an elaborate, expensive funeral.
  • homemade-light-wood-coffin
    A homemade coffin can be a piece of art. If you build one before it’s needed, you’ll have time to personalize it.

  • wooden-cross
  • light-wood-coffin
  • dark-gray-headstone
  • dark-cross-in-flowers
  • homemade-light-wood-coffin

One summer evening, my father-in-law, Frederick, suffered a fatal heart attack. EMTs rushed him to a nearby hospital in central Illinois, but in less than two hours, he was gone.

Within minutes of Frederick’s death, a hospital employee asked about funeral arrangements. I was jarred. My family was still in shock over our loss. Unsolicited, the staffer called a local funeral home and pulled me to the phone. The mortician, upon learning we had no plans, began to sell me his. I was angry that our grieving was interrupted for a sales pitch.

We had not anticipated Frederick dying. We had not expected to plan a funeral. I told the man plainly that I was galled that we couldn’t have a moment to ourselves free from advertising, and that I couldn’t bury my father-in-law without going through the funeral industry. Suddenly, I wondered aloud about burying Frederick’s remains on my property in central Colorado.

The mortician asserted that such an endeavor would be a terrible mistake. “In all my years as a mortician,” he fumed, “there was only one time I ever heard of someone trying to bury on private property. It took more than a year and turned out to be a huge, costly mistake.”

He warned me that I was going to have to wade through federal, state and local laws and regulations to obtain permission (which would almost certainly be denied, he said), and he asked what I would do with the body in the interim. Even if I could get permission, I would have to turn my entire 51-acre parcel into a cemetery and would thus never be able to sell it. The whole ordeal would cost much more than a traditional funeral and put the family through needless suffering. He kept urging me to give him permission to “take care of everything.” I told him I would think about it.

After I hung up the phone, the hospital staffer asked whether I had “made arrangements” with the funeral home. The staffer supported the mortician’s claims, telling me, “People just don’t go out and bury the dead anymore.”

3/16/2018 12:55:04 AM

I have 80 acres and want to be buried there. I have thought about it for years and need to get the particulars figured out. I plan on building my own coffin and digging my own plot. Thanks for your article, gets me going in right direction to make sure it's possible, Thanks!

Casey Willson
1/11/2018 9:13:49 AM

Thank you for the article and the attendant comments. We are a 320-acre organic farm with 16 one-acre residential lots and are considering establishing our own cemetery. Everything written here is valuable and thought provoking both for the community and the families who are intent on using the cemetery as a resting place for their loved ones. We have checked with our county authorities and find the restrictions in WV minimal, only requiring considerations that we would naturally take into account. Other considerations for establishing and maintaining the site, though, will require discussion and, again, the information here can help inform our discussion. Thanks.

Casey Willson
1/11/2018 9:13:47 AM

Thank you for the article and for the attendant comments. We are a 320-acre community owned organic farm with 16 one-acre residential lots and are interested in creating our own cemetery on the property. Everything written here is thought provoking and valuable, both for the community and for the families who are considering the cemetery as a final resting place for loved ones. Casey Willson, WV

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