The “Boisé de Vie” is the very first Bios Park ® in the world. Meaning “Wood Of Life”, this natural burial ground located in Canada is dedicated to the planting of Bios Urns®. This very special garden seeks to offer a new experience to those who wish to use a biodegradable urn that transforms you into a tree in a natural environment.
How a ceremony takes place in this Bios Park ®
They offer the bereaved the possibility of an intimate celebration under a garden pavilion built in the center of the woodland. Families and friends can chose to play music or songs which meaningful to them during the ceremony. They can bring a photo of their loved-one, flowers, candles or any other significant object. Before going to the planting spot, everyone can take the urn in their arms to say goodbye. A reading is a very personal and special moment to pay tribute to the deceased.
All of this is optional and can be changed to fit the families’ wishes. After the celebration, they go together to the planting place. All family members can participate in the planting either by placing soil around the urn, adding mulch and water and even placing the urn in the planting spot if they wish. Each burial is bespoke, we always meet the families a few weeks before to discuss what they would like.
Elyse, the Director of the cemetery, explains to us that “after the day of the burial, we very often see families return to visit their deceased and take care of their tree by removing dead leaves and to decorate it according to the seasons and the different festivals of the year. My assistant often explains that many have told them that they also like to see other small trees growing nearby. Gathering in the “Boisé de Vie” is much warmer and more natural than by tombstone, according to them.”
Our Interview with Elyse, the Cemetery Director
The story behind the creation of the natural burial ground
We decided to open the “Boisé de Vie” in collaboration with Bios Park ® for several reasons:
- – The first being to respond to our ecological awareness and people’s interest in this new way of doing things.
- – Offer a new option, things don’t have to be always be the same as what we are used to.
- – To bring people back to choosing a cemetery for their resting place. Since the arrival of columbariums inside funeral homes, cemeteries have had a large shortfall.
- – Ensure sustainability and profitability of our cemetery.
I am personally 100% behind this idea. One Sunday morning, while watching television, I saw a young couple from Quebec City presenting the Bios Urn®. In our cemetery, we already had a natural woodland adjacent to an unoccupied meadow. In my mind, it was 1 + 1 = 2. I immediately saw the possibility of carrying out a project like this. We were going to start planting Bios Urns ® and grow trees! The idea seemed great to me!
I explained my idea to my assistant Marie-Noelle who got in touch with the couple. I went to the meeting with the churchwardens to explain the project. I immediately had the approval of the council. Having encountered no difficulty in our efforts, a few months of preparation later, we inaugurated the “Boisé de Vie” in collaboration with Bios Park ®. We named this new area of the cemetery this way because it really is just that: a wooded area that will get bigger over the years.
Subsequently, with our expertise, we helped 2 other cemeteries to be able to offer this option too. I think this way of doing things meets the wishes of an ever-growing part of the population.
What the law says about ash dispersal in Quebec
The 40-year-old law has recently changed and Quebec is now firmly committed to modernizing funeral practices. The new law indeed offers very wide possibilities and makes it possible to scatter the ashes according to the wishes of the deceased or, failing that, of the family as long as this does not present any danger to public health.
It is possible to keep the urn at home and there are also various options for scattering the ashes. The ashes can for example be placed in a biodegradable urn and become part of nature.
At the time of inaugurating the “Boisé de Vie” in collaboration with Bios Park ®, there was already a path in the Laurentians (here in Quebec) which allowed biodegradable urns to be planting at the foot of the trees. We were the very first cemetery in Quebec to introduce this option inside a cemetery. In Quebec seeing as the law on the disposal of urns does not prevent this practice (here is the law in English and in French).
Whatever the mode of dispersion chosen, this burial ritual which is found to create such a strong symbolic and emotional energy must, however, comply with municipal regulations. Before scattering ashes in a park or other public place, it is important to always check before that this can be done. Likewise, scattering the ashes on a private property such as a golf course requires permission here too.
In case of doubt, before proceeding to the scattering of the ashes of a deceased person, to inquire with a funeral director, a crematorium or a city cemetery, which generally offer advice and assistance services in this type of approach. Information can also be obtained from the Directorate of Management and Accountability Agreements and Institutional Relations of the Department of Health and Social Services in Canada. In the meantime, crematoriums and funeral homes temporarily store the ashes so that the family can decide what they would like to do with them.
With 80% of Quebecers now opting for cremation, it is a safe bet that the subject of the dispersion of ashes will return to the center of the debate in the near future, particularly concerning the question of the traceability of ashes.
You can choose between different native tree species and the cemetery’s team will take care of them
We decided what choice of trees to offer families after checking with the city about the regulations on accepted native tree species and with the help of a gardener from our local garden center. So there are 8 different species that we can plant in our cemetery. We have chosen hardy species which do not require much care and maintenance and which also grow well in our area.
The tree choices we offer are: oak, gingko, lilac, hydrangea, sugar maple, crabapple, serviceberry and amur maple.
Most families choose to start with a sprout or tree that is a few years old (up to 5 to 6 feet tall). On two occasions we started with the seed, but unfortunately it didn’t work.
We have a large cemetery (we bury on average 250 people per year) and for general maintenance we have a team who take care of the land every day of the week except Sunday which allows us to have good supervision on our young trees. They are the ones who do the work on the trees following the advice of a horticulturalist. There are some families who wish to take care of their tree themselves.
If ever there were to be bad weather such as high winds, storms or frost that would damage a tree or if the tree did not come back to life after a winter, we would replace this tree with a new one (we are able do this only 1 time). If the misfortune persists a second time, it would be up to the family to replace it which we mention to them when they come for an information meeting.
This Bios Park ® offers the option of being planted together with family members
We offer the possibility of burying up to 9 members of the same family on a same plot. The first tree is planted in the center of the plot. The rest are buried around it and will feed the roots of the tree in turn. The tree will therefore become a family tree.
We also offer the option of including a bouquet of natural flowers on the plot that we call “souvenir bouquet”.
The space of our current “Boisé de Vie” can contain up to around 75 trees and we are in the process of arranging a second space so that we can continue to offer this option far into the futur. This second space is also adjacent to the natural woodland, but required a lot more work to get it ready. We are almost finished developing it and we hope to sow the lawn this spring 2020!
A big step forward
Avant-garde cemeteries and the increasing demand by individuals are responsible for the opening of this new kind of natural burial ground. Cemeteries must indeed evolve and many unfortunately refuse to adapt to sustainable options for families and individuals.
While some cemeteries prefer to stay on a more traditional path, others, such as the Catholic cemetery of Granby, are willing to go further and create new spaces where they are needed. Although it was originally a traditional cemetery, it represents a big step forward.
Elyse (on the left of the photo below) tells us “I can say that I am personally very proud of this achievement. I have been in this role of cemetery director for over 7 years and my desire to improve the cemetery by setting up different projects just makes me love more my job even more. I originally trained as a secretary and I have been working in administration roles since 1999. Before that, I made the choice to be at home with my children until the last one began school. I would have never imagined doing the job I do today!.”
“As for my own end-of-life plans, I would like to become a tree as well, but in the little cemetery where I live it’s not yet possible. Maybe my family will divide up my ashes and some will be planted into a tree in Granby? I’m thinking about it! “.
At Bios, we are very grateful to the Catholic cemeteries of Granby for the creation of the very first Bios Park ® in the world: a sacred natural space for Bios Urns® to be planted, completing the cycle of returning to nature after life has ended. We hope to see more in the future!
What do you think of this very first Bios Park ® in Canada? We would love to hear from you in the Comments section below.
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