Thinking Outside the Box for Burial

I have to admit I was one of those kids who liked the creative challenge of trying to put the round circle into the square box. I would protest, “It would be such a cool pattern if it fit!” I guess some things haven’t changed, especially when it comes to finding alternatives to how people are buried.

We spend months before we’re born curled up in a comforting fetal position in our mother’s belly. As scared or exhausted children, we return to that same curled-up pose—and as adults, we return to the inner sanctity of the fetal position when we are sick, upset, or seized by pain. It only makes sense that as we drop into our dying process, we would end in this familiar posture. Now you can leave this world in the same position from which you emerged—fetal position death shrouds are emerging as an option for final burial or cremation containers.

My company, A Sacred Passing, had the privilege to work with a death shroud maker who brilliantly designed the Fetal Pod Death Shroud™ in which a full-grown adult could be sweetly wrapped and tucked inside. The shrouds, with their wooden platform bottom and handles sewn in, can be easily carried by four to six people.  Shrouds can be used instead of a standard coffin or casket for cremation, standard burial, or green burial. They tend to be more traditional, more personalized to match the deceased person’s style, and they cost significantly less then casket options.

We had the opportunity to film a simulated burial with one of these shrouds. Seeing the shallow round open grave with our friend wrapped to look like a bright green pea pod was moving. As we stood holding hands in a circle around the flower-adorned grave, it created an overwhelming feeling that this type of burial would be like “planting” a loved one back into the earth.

It was completely different than any funeral with a box or a rectangular grave I have ever participated in. It was a profoundly heart-stirring experience, one of beauty and grace so completely in tune with nature it seemed impossible that it could be done any other way. Our filming took place at White Eagle Memorial Green Burial Grounds outside of Goldendale, WA. We stayed up well past dark, lit candles on the grave, and sang songs to the coyotes. We passed the good Irish whiskey and told stories of life and death.

At White Eagle you are encouraged to come and spend time with your loved ones’ graves or get to know the place before your own passing. This 1,000+ acre protected Land Trust, makes their green burial ground the only one of its kind in Washington State.  It’s a place where beautiful circles can find their way into a square plot.

Ashley T. Benem is the founder of the non-profit A Sacred Passing: Death Midwifery Service and the creator of the Art of Death Conference. She is an advocate for palliative and end-of-life care issues, empowering and supporting families to reclaim their right to die in congruence with their lives. Contact Ashley at

For more information, see White Eagle Memorial Preserve Cemetery at Ekone Ranch’s website at or call 206-383-3285. Guided tours are available by appointment. The address is 401 Ekone Rd., Goldendale, WA.

The shroud maker is April Lynn, out of Bellingham, WA. You can reach her at


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