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General News · 26th March 2024
Margaret Verschuur
The following was written by Lorraine Fracy, who manages Woodland at Royal Oak Burial Park in Victoria.

15 years of Green Reflections….

Watching Mother Nature at her finest has been an awe-inspiring journey here at Royal Oak Burial Park. 500 plus bodies tucked into our beautiful space replanted with big leaf maples, dogwood, garry oaks and numerous native ground cover plants adorning the area that invite the deer, bunnies, birds to dance, nibble and play. A noisy raven welcomes me on most of my visits. Audrey McGrath was our first resident, November 6, 2008, in a wicker casket, lovingly lowered into the soil wearing her kilt. The family said it suited her in so many ways!

As a passionate cemetarian for 7 years in 2008, I wondered how we would be able to have families embrace an area where their loved one would lay forever without being the typical territorial mentality that all cemetery people understand. “My mom’s grass isn’t mowed well”! “Embrace the environment” I said ad nauseam The only permanence will be the perimeter “serenity path” and the 5 large basalt boulders reflecting the names of those nourishing this land and the first name of future tenants.

The funeral homes didn’t like no embalming, but that’s what the consumers were begging for. Simple casket or being wrapped in a 7th generation linen tablecloth with wine stains and remnants of incredible stories of love, laughter and togetherness wrapping an 80-year-old woman’s body because the next generation wasn’t going to iron that old thing!

One burial every few weeks, then one a week, one every day
The incredible letters of gratitude for this option reflecting their person’s life story of environmental passion and giving to the earth and not taking. Most burials had an attendee come to the office to acknowledge “that’s exactly what I want to happen to me when I die.”

Six months in, and our first shroud… wait what? No outer container? Raw but incredibly peaceful. Cedar boughs on a thin wood plank to support the body to lower into the grave… I had to make it up as I went. Unpredictable, articulating our language to paint that picture as back then the closest thing we saw to a shroud was a tarp at an accident. Sadly, in today’s world we see much worse.

The peaceful responses were and are endless. 40-year-olds calling from afar to give their credit card to keep them a spot site unseen. I have spent countless hours touring cemetery management from all over the country who needed the visual motivation and the “reality tour” as I liked to call it… most returned to their cemeteries with a clearer vision and passion from the story telling and info sharing and a desire to create “their version” knowing we were here for love and support.

As I look to future development here at Royal Oak, I confidently say that 50% of our future burial development should be for natural/green options and with every grave prepared we too are nourishing not just our land that I am so incredibly grateful to come to 5 days a week for almost 24 years, but we nourish the heart and souls of visitors forever and always. Our beautiful place to remember has helped to change deathcare not only in Victoria BC, but in our beautiful country one cemetery at a time. A girl can dream… with love and gratitude.

Lorraine Fracy, November 2023

The Woodlands at Royal Oak Burial Park in Victoria opened in October 2008 and was Canada’s first urban green burial site.