Grave Matters: A Journey Through the Modern Funeral Industry to a Natural Way of Burial

Front Cover
Simon and Schuster, Jan 16, 2007 - Self-Help - 208 pages
3 Reviews
By the time Nate Fisher was laid to rest in a woodland grave sans coffin in the final season of Six Feet Under, Americans all across the country were starting to look outside the box when death came calling.

Grave Matters follows families who found in "green" burial a more natural, more economic, and ultimately more meaningful alternative to the tired and toxic send-off on offer at the local funeral parlor.

Eschewing chemical embalming and fancy caskets, elaborate and costly funerals, they have embraced a range of natural options, new and old, that are redefining a better American way of death. Environmental journalist Mark Harris examines this new green burial underground, leading you into natural cemeteries and domestic graveyards, taking you aboard boats from which ashes and memorial "reef balls" are cast into the sea. He follows a family that conducts a home funeral, one that delivers a loved one to the crematory, and another that hires a carpenter to build a pine coffin.

In the morbidly fascinating tradition of Stiff, Grave Matters details the embalming process and the environmental aftermath of the standard funeral. Harris also traces the history of burial in America, from frontier cemeteries to the billion-dollar business it is today, reporting on real families who opted for more simple, natural returns.

For readers who want to follow the examples of these families and, literally, give back from the grave, appendices detail everything you need to know, from exact costs and laws to natural burial providers and their contact information.

What people are saying - Write a review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - mrdmullin - LibraryThing

This book was pretty good- a good look into the embalming process (a lot more abusive to the corpse than I imagined-and I was already against embalming!) I like the historical context for how our ... Read full review

Grave Matters

User Review  - annielaurie -

Great insight into the Funeral Business and how they overcharge for unnecessary services. The author shows great options for natural burials that keep our planet green. Some that actually help the ... Read full review


The Embalming of Jenny Johnson
After the Burial
Natural Burial
Burial at Sea
The Memorial Reef
The Home Funeral
A Plain Pine Box
Backyard Burial
The Natural Cemetery

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

Popular passages

Page 7 - Show me the manner in which a nation or a community cares for its dead, and I will measure with mathematical exactness the tender sympathies of its people, their respect for the laws of the land, and their loyalty to high ideals.
Page vii - In the sweat of thy face shah thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shah thou return.
Page vii - A rock decays and forms the soil. In the soil grows an oak, which bears an acorn, which feeds a squirrel, which feeds an Indian, who ultimately lays him down to his last sleep in the great tomb of man— to grow another oak.
Page vii - ... waters. No one has suspected Paul of speaking in parables, yet in this instance he did. Wisconsin not only had a round river, Wisconsin is one. The current is the stream of energy which flows out of the soil into plants, thence into animals, thence back into the soil in a never ending circuit of life. 'Dust unto dust' is a desiccated version of the Round River concept.

References to this book

About the author (2007)

Mark Harris is a former environmental columnist with the Los Angeles Times Syndicate. His articles and essays have appeared in the Chicago Tribune, E/The Environmental Magazine, Reader's Digest, and Hope. He lives with his family in Pennsylvania. Visit his website at

Bibliographic information