Greg is a tall, lanky, handsome man in his 70’s. He is recently widowed. Greg met Lyn Louise in the Lutheran church where Lyn’s father presided as Minister. Greg’s “first and only real love,” they started dating when he was 18 and were married for 53 years.  When Lyn was diagnosed with a neuroendocrine tumour, a terminal form of cancer,  they confronted this new reality together, with the help of their family and community. “From the beginning, we spoke openly about Lyn’s diagnosis and about our evolving plans for her funeral and burial.”  

Choosing a natural burial

When Lyn’s father died, “the funeral parlour swooped in, took his body and he was cremated and gone.” Lyn didn’t want to disappear like that. “Dying is a milestone in our lives and we wanted to treat it as such, with attention to the ceremony and the care of her body. We’ve always been environmentally conscientious and discovered the natural burial ground at Union Cemetery in Cobourg.  It’s a lovely meadow, with tall grass and wildflowers overlooking Cobourg Creek. The managers do all they can to minimize the cemetery’s carbon footprint, including digging the graves by hand.”


“We bought two plots next to the creek, on top of a little hill. Lyn asked if I would build her a coffin.  I ordered pinewood from New Brunswick and cotton rope to fashion the handles.  Crafting Lyn’s coffin at our cottage was a labour of love. It felt like my special last gift to her.”

“Lyn had saved scraps of fabric from all the significant events of our lives.  She had bits from her wedding dress, our children’s baby clothes, and curtains from our first home together.  A close friend and quilter, Caroline, fashioned these pieces into a blanket to cover Lyn in the coffin.  When Lyn saw how beautiful it was, she instructed us to remove it before we closed her coffin. This priceless quilt now lies in a cradle I built 50 years ago.  The cradle is shared among friends and family, and soon will be bed to its 80th infant.”

Parting, peaches, and pancakes

“Lyn died at 4:00 a.m. on Tuesday, September 21, 2021.  My daughter and I dressed her and lay her in the coffin, which we set up in the dining room.  We spent the rest of the day together as a family, settling ourselves around her and sharing stories and memories.  Lyn looked very peaceful. The next day people came to say their goodbyes; they wrote notes to Lyn on her pine box. “

“She was home for two days before we buried her.  It was 30°C out, and unbeknownst to my children, I kept Lyn cool using frozen bags of food from the freezer.  Days later, the kids squirmed when I said, “you know those frozen peaches were by your mother’s hip – they were delicious with my pancakes this morning.”

Departing in style

“Lyn loved our Volkswagen Bug.  Regardless of whether it was snow or rain, I was determined to roll down the top and escort Lyn to her grave.  When I first shared this plan, my children laughed and Lyn rolled her eyes. She knew I was serious.”

“As we exited the home, Lyn for her last time, our Annex neighbours watched and wondered as we loaded the coffin into the VW, for Lyn’s and my last journey together.  A TTC bus driver gave us a ’toot, toot’ and a kid yelled “Hey, look at that!” 

A graceful goodbye

“Our close friend and United Church Minister Joan Wyatt led the graveside service.  She recalled that Lyn had hoped people would sing at her grave, which we did.  Joan ended by saying, “Consistent with Lyn’s passion for the care of creation, we return her body to Mother Earth, there to be integrated completely back into creation.  Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” 

“We lowered Lyn into the ground.  Friends and family each took fistfuls of earth and dropped them over the coffin, kneeling and making their final goodbyes.  The service, there in nature, and the idea of Lyn returning to earth, resonated with us all. Lyn’s helping to protect nature in perpetuity. Near where she rests, the cemetery has expanded into woodland, with more deciduous trees. Every visitor’s footsteps help to create a trail.“

“Months later, I found a granite stone at our cottage, which was perfect to mark her grave.  My daughter-in-law works in a dentist’s office, and when I asked about renting a diamond dental burr so I could engrave the stone myself, the dentist gave them to me as a gift.” 

“I want to share my story in the hopes it might inspire others to confront the difficult decisions around death and create something meaningful. It helps me heal, knowing that Lyn’s ceremony was a reflection of her, and resting place in nature will contribute to new life.”