Final Resting Place: My Environmental and Peaceful Approach

I debated about sharing this post on my blog since it talks about an uncomfortable topic – the end of life and choosing your final resting place. After giving it some thought, I decided my recent experience on the topic might be helpful to others. If you’re like me, you don’t like to think about dying. We want to live forever if we can live happily.

As a kid I’d ask my mom how she felt about growing older and getting closer to her last days. Her answer always puzzled me. My mom was never afraid, and she didn’t mind aging. She assured me she enjoyed every stage of her life. Each decade of life is different and enjoyable in a new way. I decided then and there I wanted to adopt her attitude about death and aging.

Now this may seem silly to some, but I’ve always known I don’t want to be buried in a casket. When I was five years old I got stuck in a steamer trunk and feared I’d never get out and my mom would have to feed me bits of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches through the holes of the trunk. Luckily my best friend’s sister figured out how to open the trunk, but I’ve been claustrophobic ever since. And so, the thought of my body being stuck in a casket kind of freaks me out.

So, I was intrigued when I saw an ad where they put your ashes in a large vase of sorts with a tree planted in it. I loved the idea of my body becoming nutrition for the tree as it pulled nutrients out of the soil. The only problem with that end of life option is you have to get permission to plant that tree somewhere. This seemed like too much to fuss with. Then I heard about Better Place Forests and I knew this was the place for me after I pass on. (Better Place Forests didn’t compensate me for this post, in case you’re wondering.)

You choose a tree in one of their forests where your ashes, mixed with soil, are spread at the base of the tree during a ceremony you or your family plans. Wildflower seeds can be sewn on top. A small round marker is then placed there so that friends and family can find you if they wish to visit and pay respects. This seems like such an organic and eco-friendly option to me. Your burial takes up less space than a casket and the forest is pretty and peaceful, full of life and nature.

Better Place Forest in Rock River, Illinois
Photo courtesy of Better Place Forests


A few months ago, hubby and I chose to have our ashes placed at the base of this red oak tree (center of photo above) during an online tour of the Rock River forest location. The forest wasn’t open at the time, but we selected a tree anyway, knowing we could switch trees once we could actually visit in person. Well, we got to do that this past weekend. I was excited about the trip while hubby was a little nervous and creeped out by the thought of seeing where his remains would be placed to rest. I figured death is inevitable and wouldn’t it be better to choose our final resting place now so our kids don’t have to make those decisions when they might be emotionally distraught?

This beautiful and peaceful gravel road leads from the main entrance into the heart of the Better Place Forest located along the Rock River in Oregon, Illinois. It’s about an hour-drive from our house. I was immediately at peace when we entered and was impressed by the subtle, quiet beauty.

Gravel Country Road through forest leading to the Rock River in Oregon, Illinois


The Rock River forest isn’t officially open for ash-spreading yet. They still need to do some clearing of areas and create more paths, but we were able to see the grounds in person since we had already selected a tree.

This building will eventually become the welcome center. It previously served as the home of a local author who would go to the top of the house to gaze out the window facing the river for writing inspiration. The house still needs some renovation work, but it’s a cute place.

Rock River Welcome Center


Here’s the rear of the home with its big windows and treetop balcony.

End of Life option with Better Place Forests - welcome center


This is the side of the home/welcome center that faces the river.

Craftsman Style Home in the Woods
Photo courtesy of Better Place Forests


We walked the trail through the various sections of the forest with our tour guide. She first took us to the red oak we had chosen during our online tour. Initially, we wanted a tree with a view of the river for our family to enjoy when/if they ever visit the forest. We saw other trees we considered but toward the end of the tour we came to a clearing of sorts and saw this beautiful shagbark hickory tree with the sun shining on its canopy. Hubby spotted it first.

Shagbark Hickory Tree Canopy


Look at its beautiful bark. When I was a kid I attended Camp Hickory named after all the nearby hickory trees. I was always fascinated by the bark of this tree so when we saw tree #1655, I felt connected to it. There’s also more of a clearing around the base of the tree than the red oak. So we switched our choice of tree to this one for our final resting place.

Shagbark Hickory Tree in Forest
Photo courtesy of Better Place Forests


Available trees have a small, round green metal marker on it with a number. The trees are inspected by an arborist to make sure they’re free of disease. The cost of the tree depends on its location and size. If any of our children wish to have their ashes placed here with us, they can do so. You can also have your pet’s ashes spread at the base of the tree.

Shagbark Hickory Tree in Forest


The shagbark hickory produces nuts that squirrels and other small critters can eat or bury. Hubby liked the idea of squirrels being able to get nourishment from our tree.

Fruits of the Carya ovata, the shagbark hickory


shagbark hickory nuts


In the fall, the leaves of the shagbark hickory turn bright yellow.

yellow leaves of hickory tree


The Rock River is a beautiful area. Better Place Forests has other locations throughout the U.S. and continues to add new forests.

And so, I’m happy with our decision to have our final resting place at the base of a beautiful tree in a private forest. I’m also happy that this option is less expensive (depending on the tree) than a traditional burial. Not to mention, it’s a more environmentally-friendly option. I feel at peace about it and have to admit that the thought of my remains fertilizing a tree makes death seem a lot less scary; my exit from the world will benefit nature in a small way.


Better Place Forest- Final Rest Place on Rock River
Photo courtesy of Better Place Forests


“… to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called mighty oaks, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor.” Isaiah 61:3


You can watch this video if you’re interested in learning more about it:



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  1. I absolutely love this idea.
    I am so glad you posted this because I have been agonising over where I wanted my ashes to be placed.
    The only thing is, I live in Australia and I don’t think we have anything similar here.
    Despite this, I think it is marvellous and I’m hoping Aus comes up with such a beautiful concept.
    Thank you,

    1. Hi Kate,

      I’m glad you enjoyed this. I hope Australia does something similar in the near future. A memorial forest seems like such a great option and helps preserves forests at the same time. 🙂

  2. I think that is a really beautiful idea and thank you for sharing that. My father passed on New Year’s Day this year and his ashes are at my mom’s home (NJ) and I know that he would LOVE this idea being the master gardener and landscaper that he was. There aren’t any in NJ yet so maybe one day we can find him and Mom a tree of their own. Thank you for sharing that Jennifer.

    1. Hi Traci! That’d be so nice to find a tree for both your mom and dad – especially since he was a master gardener. I think more forests like this will start opening soon – it’s going to be very popular.

  3. Thank you, Jennifer, for sharing. I find that concept to be so comforting. I love being outdoors and hiking especially with family so envisioning grandkids walking around my tree makes me smile.😊Have a beautiful day!

  4. My husband’s father died 25 years ago, and his ashes remained in an urn in his wife’s home. When my husband’s mom passed this last August, their ashes were mixed together and released into a creek in the area she had requested by one of her granddaughters. Due to Covid we could not travel there, but they sent us a lovely video of their ashes being released and floating away. It was quite moving to see and know that her wishes had been fulfilled.

    1. Hi Diane – What a beautiful idea for your husband’s parents. I’m sorry you weren’t able to attend the ceremony due to Covid, but at least you now have a video of it. Thanks for sharing your experience! It sounds lovely.

  5. Thank you Jennifer. This is a beautiful expression of death, which is our last part of life. Thank you for sharing this peaceful post. The book “Grave Matters” by last name Harris was what spurred our family to think beyond casket (very expensive and all those chemicals in the ground) to environmental friendly resting spots. There will be lots of folks who appreciate your thoughts.

    1. Hi Dee! I haven’t heard of that book but I like the title! Both my parents were cremated which first got me thinking about it. They didn’t want two caskets taking up space in the ground.

      1. Reading comments on your blog, you’ve given people much to think about. Oft times we think in a rut but you have opened minds to new thinking. Good job!!

  6. My son passed away a few years ago-his girlfriend kept 1/2 of his ashes to be scattered in the Hudson River in NYC where he was living at the time of his passing and we have pattered his at his favorite places. Mammoth Mountain where we skied as a family, Yosemite national park where we vacationed yearly, his college , CalArts, and the ocean… With a little for me to keep for the rest of my days.
    I didn’t want him to be placed in one location where we were pulled to “visit” him, or that we would never feel we could move far from. I didn’t want to only “visit” him in one location-I wanted him to be where everyone who knew him could feel his spirit in so many of his loved locations.
    I don’t support caskets either, we don’t have the room in this world, and well-I believe when you are gone-you should be returned to the earth. His organs were donated so he lives on through others, many many others that he gave the gift of life.
    Cheers to your decision. Your family will appreciate the forethought.

    1. Hi Sandy! What a beautiful tribute to your son – and I’m so very sorry for your loss. I hope that spreading his ashes in areas important to your family and his girlfriend was helpful in the healing process. I love your philosophy of feeling his spirit in various locations. I never even thought of that. Your story touched my heart. Sending you a virtual hug and hope you find peace in your memories of him!

  7. This is an interesting and beautiful idea. I know a number of relatives that would find this “comforting”.
    We buried my mother in July of this year and in two days it will 4 yrs since my father’s passing.
    They are together now. But deciding what was to happen was –as you stated–not an easy or comfortable conversation.

    1. Hi Maureen,
      I’m so sorry about the loss of your parents. I lost both of mine about six years ago. It’s never easy. I have to agree with you that the idea of a memorial forest is comforting. That’s exactly how I felt when I found Better Place Forests. 🙂

  8. Perfect timing on this Jennifer. I’m conflicted as to what I want to do and realize caskets take up so much space, aren’t environmentally good for the earth and I too fear claustrophobic spots. This isn’t in our area as yet but I will look. I have to wonder if some of the old cemeteries would allow for this? Many of our family members that have passed are in the countryside with beautiful forests around them where they have been placed under old oak trees. I guess it’s time my husband and I looked into this as well. Thanks for the new view of this daunting, not so fun task, that is ahead of us. This makes it brighter, thanks.

    1. Hi Lori!

      I have to agree with you that the memorial forest does make the process a lot brighter. I had no qualms about it whatsoever, whereas the thought of being in a casket gives me anxiety even though I won’t be aware I’m in there. Knowing your body is helping to preserve a forest for years to come is much more pleasant. I wish you well in your end-of-life planning venture and hope it gives you a sense of comfort. It’s not as bad as I thought it would be.

  9. Oh my gosh…how wonderful and beautiful. So in love with the new alternatives for ever after. I’m pretty sure the county of Albemarle, Virginia is looking into a more natural resting place and as soon as it happens, I’m going to look into it. Otherwise, I’ll be getting sprinkled on my parents family plot on Cape Cod. I always joked that it would be the only real estate I could afford on the Cape. Lol… thank you for sharing.

  10. Love this post. I have paid for arrangements at our family plot but want to change them. I hate that our zoning has so many requirements in our city and really would just like my ashes buried without the casket or crypt. Amazing that we own the spot and still must do these things. Many years ago I read a book, I think the name was Funerals, Consumer’s Last Rights, and it was very revealing about the funeral industry. In Germany, their practices seemed much more pragmatic. I have put in a request to have this company come to Virginia! Meanwhile, thanks for the reminder to look into this matter again!

    1. Hi Vicki! I hope you get a memorial forest in your area soon. I was so surprised and even happy when they decided to open one near us. It’s nice to have it taken care of.

  11. Thank you for this post. I will research this. I decided long ago I did not want to be buried in a coffin as it is so earth unfriendly. I love this idea.

  12. I am so glad you posted this, I have talked about being cremated but wondered where my son’s could put my ashes and this would be perfect. I don’t mind talking about dying cause I know I will be with my Savoir, thank you and have a great day.

  13. . So glad I read your post today. There is a “green” cemetery very close to where we are in Michigan. I have considered this option but love the idea of being in a forest somewhere and nurturing the earth after I have gone. Will look into this further. Thank you.

  14. I’ve paid for my cremation, but, as I told the Neptune Society salesman, I don’t like the idea of either being buried, as everyone in my family except my sister always has been, or being burned up, the details of which you really don’t want to know. However, one must be practical. Cremation certainly seems sensible so I’ve opted for that. My brother-in-law and I scattered my sister’s ashes this summer in Rocky Mountain National Park. I like the idea, though, of having a burial place of record since I have gleaned a lot of information throughout the years from cemeteries in my work on my family tree.