Content here represents the voice of SIGNATURE SUNSETS, an informational initiative designed to broaden and brighten horizons in the funerary domain.

The material is an outgrowth of a pre-planning reference book, Pondering Leaves: Composing and Conveying Your Life Story's Epilogue, written by the author of this blog.


Monday, June 15, 2015


Journey Journal... Arlington, MA


All caskets available through the Mourning Dove Studio are “green” because of their biodegradability and suitability for natural burials.  But the actual colors and styles can reflect a broad spectrum of possibilities.  A pivotal feature of this enterprise is its adaptability and responsiveness to personal visions.  The sky’s the limit for individually created versions destined for underground repose, as long as construction materials and decorative applications mesh with principled stipulations for ecologically-friendly burials. 

The Mourning Dove venture, though, encompasses far more than the sale of burial containment.  Its two co-founder visionaries conceptualized an inclusive palate of offerings.  Through their direct support, customers have been able to immerse themselves in details of design as well as dialogues about death.  Backgrounds in human service instinctively marry these originators with a sensitivity to emotional needs generated by ramifications of current and future loss.  

Although sales of burial receptacles represent the most tangible backbone of their activities, nothing within the realm of related services is boxed in by prescribed structure.  The dynamic nature of shared details and interactive exchanges engages customers under novel circumstances, promoting personal  touches and camaraderie typically foreign to conventional retail settings.    

Ruth Faas and Sue Cross are the prime movers who have nurtured this initiative toward its realization.  Both had been peripheral observers of matters within the death arena prior to plunging into it themselves.  

Observations of her uncle’s funeral home operations may have set the stage for Ruth, but a reaction to her mother’s casket innervated thoughts of alternatives.  Clinical ministrations as an occupational therapist led to graduate studies in sociology and a role as a teaching assistant for a Death and Dying class.  Currently, she is a member of the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Eastern Massachusetts.    

Besides a background in mental health, an appreciation of cultural diversity and a passion for art have contributed to Sue’s involvement in death-related services.  While serving as a bereavement counselor for adolescents, she is also developing a film series about death, dying, and grieving for a local church.  

These inspired women have fulfilled roles as enablers by guiding folks beyond the darkness of finality and into the light of expressive possibilities for handling it.  Until recently, customers had been able to visit a multi-functional, spacious studio where caskets were on display, but also, other activities were underway.  

Individual art projects and workshops were conducted in the larger of two rooms.  Bereavement groups could be accommodated.  For a nominal fee, basic cardboard caskets or pine boxes could be decorated according to individualized inspirations and aspirations.  Guidance was available from the co-founder who has a penchant for art, buoyed by four years of classes and membership in a cooperative art studio, and imbued with a special interest in the art and rituals her Hungarian ancestors had practiced in response to deaths. 

Photos Source:  Mourning Dove Studio Website
A smaller resource room served as a hub for access to relevant literature about matters of mortality, including alternative modes of death management.  There,  folks could sit and read to glean insights on their journeys toward end-of-life wisdom.  Some tapped material addressing grief to bolster steps toward recovery.  

Perhaps a germane slogan for this venture that pertains to death would be, “Never Say Die.”  Operations could readily have come to a demised termination were it not for motivational resilience.  As with life itself, an insurmountable obstacle was encountered that rendered a numbing blow. 

The storefront space on Massachusetts Avenue that had been headquarters for this establishment since its origination in December of 2009 had to be unexpectedly abandoned in 2014.  A quintessential “we regret to inform you” notice was the dagger that could have inflicted mortal wounds.  The announcement of a monthly rent increase of $1000. was potentially paralyzing.  

But the imposed absence of expanse did not mark the end of this life-enriching cause.  Now, sales are conducted and information is dispensed from the owner’s home.  Caskets are on display in the basement, along with some biodegradable urns and reference materials.    

Rather than unceremoniously placing an order, sometimes folks who are experiencing the turmoil of loss or terminal circumstances may want to immerse themselves in the process of development through hands-on involvement.  As an evocative tool for expression of feelings, such activities can be an antidote to their festering imprisonment. 

Given enough preemptive time, clients may even choose to construct a casket themselves, with direct assistance.  Or plain, unadorned boxes that are already made can awaken ideas, prompting applications of paint or anything the heart desires.  

Photo Source:  Mourning Dove Studio Website

Encyclopedia pages meaningfully lined the interior of a rudimentary receptacle that would be apropos for a teacher or avid learner.  The decoupage technique is often employed.  

Inserts may be covered by family photos, images that signify a decedent’s characteristics, or ornamentation of a different nature.  

Even mere post-it notes might be affixed to recognize a decedent’s persona or as a means for conveying messages as part of a send-off.  
As an alternative to a do-it-yourself casket-making project or securing one that’s locally constructed, models from other retail sources can be ordered.  Basket-type receptacles made from natural fibers have become popular commodities for green burials in Europe and, increasingly, in the United States as well. 

The stylistic Ecopod was introduced to the world as a distinctive, molded configuration that simulates a seed pod.  It is hand made using recycled newspapers and finished with paper from mulberry pulp.  Colors and imprinted designs are variable.    

Caskets with designs prepared through the application of biodegradable paints are available.  One of a cadre of local artists can be commissioned to do the work. 

Photo Source:  Mourning Dove Studio Website

If a shroud is preferred, it can be acquired from one of a few nationwide sources. 

For discussions with the Mourning Dove owner, interested individuals are invited to sit around a table in her spacious country kitchen that evokes images of neighborhood coffee klatches.  The homey environment begets a sense of homespun attention.   

Like a sumptuous meal, the scoop about options for products and services is doled out generously.  Contacts may be facilitated by referring people to a host of providers.  Among them are funeral homes and cemeteries that support ecological practices, celebrants who conduct commemorative services, grief therapists, deathbed choirs, and artists who create memorial items.  

The website for this venture also serves as a channel for input.  Besides having access to pertinent blog articles, readers are apprised of opportunities to attend a series of writing workshops or yoga classes to address the impact of loss.  Home gatherings for exploration and discussions can be arranged.  One page on the website is a repository for a listing of resources and the sharing of commemorative ideas submitted by individuals.  

Part of the mission to spread the word about natural burials is implemented through community presentations and exhibits at events, such as the 2014 Graves In the Garden green burial fair at Mount Auburn Cemetery.  In a vendor milieu, a few of the caskets were on display there.

A commitment to promote the concept of environmentally sustainable end-of-life practices is at the core of this undertaking.  It is readily apparent that individualized support and a goal of enlightenment serve as the underlying foundation for devoted engagement.  These authentic helpers want to help people.  Casket sales seem secondary to that objective.   

As noted on their website, they “want to help dying people and their loved ones openly discuss these topics, utilize art and creativity as tools for leaving a legacy of love, create meaningful, personalized end-of-life ceremonies, have more access to eco-friendly options, honor and grieve our connections and losses.”

Their recognition of a need for earthly preservation has motivated involvement in this ecologically conscientious endeavor.  Everything they do and everything they provide is down to earth, whether it be a burial receptacle or a suggestion.  Under their auspices, customized creativity reigns.  Their efforts epitomize a manner of personalization that is meaningful and devoid of commercialism.  They are mavericks in these ever-growing funerary fields of green.  

"Going green"

"Mourning goes green in Arlington"


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