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A Word from Mary Murphy of St. Augustine’s Chapel


For years, St. Augustine’s has hosted and nurtured conversations and dreams about a revival of traditional burial practices. These words and aspirations have led to the founding of Larkspur Conservation, and now to this moment when the hopes and dreams could become reality.  Mary Murphy has given eloquent voice to this vision:

Nothing is more solitary than death; even if you are lucky enough to be surrounded by those you love, you cross the threshold from the temporal to eternity, alone, clutching your faith.
If you are like me, that faith has been nurtured in a community that strives to dream and live out the kingdom of God on earth, its promises of justice and love for all humanity and for creation itself. What if your last word was an act committing yourself to that kingdom, committing your body to the tenderness of the earth as a relative rather than a resource; of choosing stewardship and discretion over costly caskets, vain embalming, and grand headstones, leaving behind worldly divisions and status for the true world.
What if as we, St Augustine’s faithful, die out, each alone, we commit to rest together as a community, as a legacy that chooses the healing power of love over death; then death might not be so lonely and final, knowing that the love—that kept us going while we breathed, while our hearts beat faithfully—still awaits us on the other side. Then we might catch a glimpse of our afterlife in the clearing at the edge of a virgin forest conservation, near a trickling creek that meanders through Pawpaw patches and stands of Maples’ golden boughs. We might feel the promise that in our death, our burials at Taylor Hollow, we are returning home—Rambler, pilgrim, pioneer, refugee, fugitive, alien, each of us embraced like prodigal children in the bosom of our Lord, our World Mother.
Imagine reuniting with the fertile and creative ground of our being under the vault of heaven and regenerating as wildflowers, maybe even the rarest Blue Eyed Mary, indigenous to these parts. Imagine our bodies returning to the mysterious cycle of matter that composes animal, vegetable, mineral. Imagine the welcome of our relatives—the fern, the stone, the squirrel, the ground cedar, and the insectivorous minions. We will be rich fodder for stands of trees. We will be the sweet tartness of blackberries.  We will nurture seedlings below a blanket of snow. We will resurrect so many mornings like dewdrops on spider’s webs. Our dust will blow in the breezy benedictions of quavering leaves as hikers journey by.
Mary Murphy
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