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May 6, 2014 /

Life’s a Beech


Recently, my husband and I met with an attorney to draft our living trust, wills, durable powers of attorney, and advance health care directives. We wanted to get these done now while we are both in good physical and mental health. Over the last several years, we have witnessed the rapid deterioration in the health of some family members and friends. We do what we can to stay healthy but we don’t fool ourselves into thinking it can’t happen to us. Even if we live to 90 or beyond, these documents will be necessary to assure that our wishes are carried out.

Creating these documents is serious and time-consuming. There are a lot of uncomfortable details to think about and financial decisions to be made. I found the most enjoyable part of the process to be determining where our assets will go once we were both gone. Since we have no children, we happily specified a few charities that are near and dear to our hearts. What I found the most difficult was deciding what I wanted done with my remains. Although cremation is a given, where do I want my ashes to go?

When my mother passed away in 2000, I was relieved to discover that she and my father had made funeral arrangements many years previously. Because of this, my brothers and I weren’t faced with the burden of trying to guess what she would have wanted. It was a generous and loving act that we appreciated again when my father passed away several years later. Their ashes now lay side-by-side in a columbarium overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Since meeting with the attorney, I have done some research and I think I’ve found the answer to my dilemma: tree urns. Planting commemorative trees is a practice that has been around for awhile, but now there is a way we can actually become part of a tree once we are gone.

Bio Urn

Bio Urn

I found several options: Bios Urns, EterniTrees, Spirit Trees, and Peotrees, and I’m sure there are others. The prices vary, but the concept is the pretty much the same: one’s ashes are mixed with planting soil, nutrients, and a tree seed. And, since ashes contain phosphorous, they contribute to the healthy growth of the tree. How great is that! I have always considered myself a tree-hugger, but now I can actually provide nourishment to the tree! Rather than becoming post-consumer (as in me, the consumer) waste, I can contribute healthy Co2 to the atmosphere for many years to come.

Most of the companies that sell these urns offer a choice of tree seeds. Maple, oak, ash, and beech are a few of the options on one of the websites. Living–and most likely dying–in southern California, I’d probably choose a tree that’s drought resistant, or maybe a citrus. A lime tree, perhaps, so my juices could be blended into pitchers of margaritas or my slices muddled to make a mojito.

Since we are pretty sure we can’t take it with us, my husband and I intend to spend most of our assets having fun in our retirement (sorry, designated charities), leaving just enough for a heck of a Celebration of Life party for our friends. Although I’d like to think we will leave the world a better place, most likely our names won’t be remembered by generations far into the future. They won’t be engraved on a plaque or noted in a text.

I will ask that my ashes be used to propagate a tree planted in our back yard. Becoming a tree, a symbol of eternal life in many cultures, will allow me to live on, providing some beauty, a little shade, and perhaps adding a refreshing zest to the drinks of future homeowners. Maybe they will raise a toast to my memory.



Leave a Comment
  1. Intrepid Explorer / May 6 2014 6:53 pm

    I like it! What a wonderful idea, to provide nourishment to something so profound! I had dabbled with scattering my ashes from a bi-plane over my beloved Red Rocks, or shooting them up into space. Why not have one last laugh at life’s experiences! L.

    • / May 7 2014 9:10 am

      I love both of those ideas! I hope that day is long off for both of us but it’s kind of fun (if that’s the word) to identify the perfect place to take our final rest.

  2. Shelley / May 7 2014 5:39 am

    Wonderful idea! Since imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, consider yourself flattered. I’m thinking I’d like a tree in a public place, plus a bench underneath.

    Although we do have a son, we too plan on spending most of our money. He will be getting his “inheritance” while we are still alive, via family trips and gifts. His education has made him fully capable of taking care of himself (another example of his “inheritance” at work).

    • / May 7 2014 9:18 am

      Love, love “your” tree and bench… so peaceful.

      And, you are right about your son’s inheritance: spend it now creating memories.

  3. katecrimmins / May 7 2014 1:38 pm

    These are tough decisions but as you said, better made early than when you can’t think. I like the tree idea. I have two (dead) cats who are fertilizing a lovely shrub planted in their honor.

  4. Polly / May 7 2014 3:07 pm

    I really like your idea.
    I love trees and it makes me happy to think of being a part of one for many, many years after I’m physically gone from this earth. Providing shade and beauty to wherever it’s planted is a huge plus! I think I’d like it to be in a playground/park so kids could climb, hang upside down from the branches with a tree house for them to play in!
    Great information, thank you.

    • / May 7 2014 5:55 pm

      The great thing is that you can pick the type of tree seed so you’ll be able to choose one that grows tall and has sturdy branches!

  5. simplelivingover50 / May 7 2014 3:37 pm

    I like this idea. If it is a fruit tree I can also become food for the deer in the area. Wow, the thought’s this creates are endless.

  6. Paula Karlberg / May 16 2014 8:46 am

    I just discovered your blog and cannot wait to read more. Your comments about preparing one’s final documents really hit home. I recently retired and this is one of the to-dos on my long list. The idea of helping germinate a tree with my remains will now be my first and only choice when it comes to what to do with me when I’m gone.

    • / May 16 2014 12:48 pm

      I am so happy that you found my blog! I look forward to starting my long to-do list tomorrow (my last day is today!). Good luck with yours. I am happy that the tree idea resonated with you.

  7. Lynn / May 16 2014 11:47 am

    Hi, Janis. Is today “the day”? Love this idea about planting a tree with my ashes! Thanks for sharing.

    • / May 16 2014 12:51 pm

      Yes, today is the day! I’m excited and a bit sad (because of the people I will miss). Monday will feel odd… but I think I’ll get used to it (hopefully by Tuesday).

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