Community-led deathcare begins third season of monthly learning

Ferns and flowers are arranged on top of wooden boards at the surface level of as yet unfilled grave.
Grave prepared for a natural burial in the Whaletown Cemetery. Photo by Margaret Verschuur
Anastasia Avvakumova - CKTZ - Cortes IslandBC | 18-10-2021

The Cortes Island DeathCaring Collective began its third annual educational series of monthly meetings on Oct. 5, at the end of a year that saw the first two natural burials in recent history on the island.

Resident Margaret Verschuur founded the collective with four others after her long-term involvement with the group Way To Go on Quadra Island, which has been running for eight years.

The collective, which describes itself as "a group of folks who are enthusiastic about opening up conversations about death, dying, and grief," holds monthly meetings in the quieter, darker months of the year. The meeting on Oct. 5 included a guest presentation from Priya Huffman who spoke about the practices and rituals around death and dying in a Jewish community.

Past topics have included tending to your loved one's bodies at home as well as natural burial, both of which have helped create a group of volunteers who can guide families through the process. 

In natural, or green burials, "the whole idea is to return this body to the earth as simply and naturally as possible, where it will contribute to new life," said Verschuur.

With help from the Cortes Island DeathCaring Collective, natural burials are held at designated sites on the island.

Future topics the group hopes to explore are near death experiences, organ donation and compassionate communication, among others.

Click below to listen to the interview with Margaret Verschuur about community-led deathcare on Cortes Island: