When I scattered Lenny’s ashes on the Appalachian Trail, I wasn’t prepared for the volume of ashes that a person generates. I had poured a little of his cremains in several zip-lock bags so that our son, Neil, and his two girls could spread their own ashes from a rocky outcropping. A year later, I revisited that spot.
The rest of Lenny’s cremains are carefully packed in a colorful urn, waiting for a permanent home. I can’t just dump them into the wind or keep them on a shelf.
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust
Then I discover Carolina Memorial Sanctuary, a green burial cemetery in Henderson County. Cassie Barrett invites me to see the site.
“I’ve always had a natural connection to death,” says Cassie, an upbeat millennial with magenta hair. We walk the trails through the Sanctuary, a plot of land that’s being turned into North Carolina’s first conservation burial ground. The weather is cold and dreary. I’m not seeing the area in the best light.
“You can pick out a spot, on a hill, by the stream.” No headstones, no angels, no plastic flowers, just a flat stone with the name and birth and death dates of the deceased. Quite different from the cemeteries in the Smokies or Riverside Cemetery with its rows and rows of huge headstones.
“Lenny’s had a proper memorial service and his ashes have been scattered where he wanted to be. I’m just trying to find a permanent, respectful place for the rest,” I explain. “So, there won’t be a second service. Just me.” Cassie understands.
This is a green sanctuary. To quote the website,
Cremated remains are naturally alkaline and salty, since they contain high levels of phosphorus (calcium phosphate) and sodium.
The ashes will be put in a biodegradable urn to lower the Ph level before they’re put into the ground.
Cassie encourages me to find a place.
In this nondescript winterland of weeds, low bushes and a few trees, I gravitate toward a little hill with a flat rock which stands up to the sky.
It reminds me of a rock I saw at Manzanar National Historic Site in California, the largest of the Japanese internment camps.
Cassie drives two metal stakes in the ground. I’ll go there as well at some point.