I've always known when the time came, I wanted to help prepare my parents for burial and shovel the dirt back over them as they returned to the Earth. I know this idea might seem quite odd to many people--- I totally understand how it could be.
But, historically, in our family, through many generations, women on both sides of my lineage have been called upon to dress the deceased and prepare them for internment. In that way, it comes pretty naturally to me to participate in burying loved ones.
Also, my dad and I buried animals, i.e., pets, critters from the wild, together quite a few times when I was young. He always took gentle care of the creatures he was returning to the Earth, and more than one time, I've seen a tear roll down his cheek as he began the process.
Additionally, here on The Farm, I've buried many, many of our farm animals, and I am always honored to do that. Our side woods, affectionately dubbed "Sherwood Forest" when Samuel was into Robin Hood, is the sacred resting ground for at least 30-40 animals, everyone from old Tornado and Gunner, the dogs Sam and I had when we were married to Kate and Botas, our old farm cats who passed on most recently. I go to the treehouse out in Sherwood Forest from time to time to meditate, and I sense real peace and love there...It is indeed sacred space.
So, when Daddy died, Myra and I began to gather photos to display in the funeral parlor, I had a grouse and crow feather which we placed in his jacket pocket, and we also sent him to the spirit world with a figurine of his bird dog in one side pocket and a wooden carved squirrel in another. Shortly before Myra and I closed the casket, Samuel, Eliza, Mom, Myra, and I snipped a piece of our hair to place between the feathers....It's a Native American tradition of mourning to cut one's hair, as well as a reminder to the spirit as it journeys that those of us who remain incarnate will always be with it. Myra also placed a cross-stitch piece she had made him by his side.
After the funeral service at his grave, Myra, the children, and I stayed, and as soon as I saw the shovels, I picked one up and began the process of covering my dad with the earth. Samuel participated, as well, and Myra and Eliza assisted along the way. It felt quite familiar to be working in the dirt. At peace in my heart, embraced by the mountains, cleansed by the chilly breeze, I felt very much in touch with Papa as I worked. He would have been proud; he would have understood why I was there, I know.
The dirt from his grave is still on my shoes....I don't plan on cleaning it off. I'm just going to let the grass and rain puddles be my cleansers.