Changing Tradition with Upright Burials

by A-Badgero

The new Upright Burial cemetery is situated in a pastoral setting. In memory of each person, interred there, the cemetery will plant a tree on Mount Elephant.

A young girl is taught by her mother how to cook a roast. Her mother cuts the ends off the roast, seasons it and places it in the pot. When the girl got older she continued the tradition with her own daughter and showed her to cut the ends off the roast, season and place in pot. When the third generation daughter had a girl of her own she began showing her the process of preparing the roast.

The inquisitive young girl asks her mother, “ Why do you cut the ends off the roast?”  The mother becomes puzzled with the realization that she does not know and responds with, “ That’s how my mother did it”.  Now curious she calls up her mother, “Mom why do we cut the ends off the roast?”  and gets the same response, “Well that’s how my mother did it”.

At the next family event the women gather in the kitchen to prepare a large roast and they take the opportunity to ask great grandma. “Why do we cut the ends off the roast?  they ask. Grandma smiles and replies “I never had a pot large enough to fit the roast”.

Some times we continue doing things one way because that’s how we were taught, it became tradition. Too often in history have we seen people following tradition without ever questioning the action’s actual purpose. As circumstances change, and large pots pots become available, it is beneficial to know the reasons for old traditions in order to determine whether those previous conclusions still fit within the parameters faced today.

Whether due to religious influence or not, many of us just continue buying the same products and doing tasks in the same way as our parents did. We often continue this trend because we are unaware that there were alternatives and that this was the only option, the only one you knew.

When someone passes away or if you are pre-planning your funeral sendoff there are traditionally two basic disposition choices – cremation or burial. A problem facing many cemeteries around the world right now is the same issue many land fill sites are facing – lack of space. Just as we are seeing a need for a new efficient way of disposing our world’s trash there is an urgent need for a more effective way to inter our dead. Land values are climbing and as a result space in cemeteries has reached a premium and is limited.

Cremation is one solution that is meant to combat this issue and it is becoming a widely popular choice however,  many religions and cultures do not accept cremation due to the process that involves incinerating the body.

With a typical Christian burial a body is positioned horizontally in a casket with legs straight and arms crossed at chest. This type of burial has been adapted as the standard in western civilization and the majority of cultures.  The position of the body holds a different importance dependant upon your cultural and/or religious background.  For instance being buried face down is considered the ultimate sign of disrespect for the deceased in many cultures. Others, like Major Peter Labilliere, who was buried with his head down and his feet pointing upwards on on June 11, 1800, believed that when Judgement Day came he would be resurrected right way up in a world turned upside down.

A standard horizontal plot is approx. 9 feet long and about 4 feet wide and in most cemeteries the plots are laid out in parallel rows with a one to two feet of space in between to prevent overlapping. To give an idea of how much space is needed, take this into consideration. The size of an NFL football field is 160 feet by 360 feet.  If you were to fill this field with burial plots even without the space between burial plots, you would have room for 1,600 plots.

In the past decade, public attitudes have been changing due to many urban and environmental pressures and people have become more open minded to alternative processes. There are countless designers working all over the world to develop the next big solution for making the funeral industry more environmentally friendly.

A new innovative cemetery in Victoria, Australia called Upright Burials decided the public needed a change when it came to the choices available when burying a loved one. They took the phrase “think outside of the box” literally and recreated the cemetery.  No box, no gravestone and the body is buried standing upright making enough room for more than 40,000 graves sites. The first ever vertical cemetery promises to be a simpler and more economic option than the traditional burial process.

The cylindric graves are dug by the same equipment used to dig holes for power poles and measure two feet wide and are nine feet deep.  The body, wrapped in a biodegradable shroud, is slowly lowered into the grave feet first, using a trolley with a cable to ensure a slow descent.

To give an idea of how much space this repositioning saves let’s look back at the size of of the NFL football field.  We already determined that it would fit approx. 1,600 standard horizontal graves but when you position the bodies vertically in graves two feet in diameter you are able to fit 14,400 which increases the  capacity ninefold.

In addition to solving the issue of space, Upright Burials aims to deliver an environmentally friendly option that will provide families with less financial burden and complicated decision making in a time of despair. The vertical cemetery does not offer or allow memorial services, graveside services, flowers, cars or bagpipers on their grounds and as a result an upright burial costs about half that of a traditional burial.

The entrance to the cemetery has a memorial wall with GPS co-ordinates so that visitors can locate individual graves. The cemetery will also plant a tree in memory of the deceased on nearby Mount Elephant. The burials are designed to be as simple, environmentally friendly and respectful as possible.

Allan Heywood, a 64 year old Vietnam Veteran who lost his battle with cancer was the first to be interred at the new cemetery. He was excited to be the first at something saying that, “Everyone wants their little piece of history”.

Read more:

Upright Burials

Victorian man has first ever upright eco burial | Herald Sun

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