All photos and footage of the funeral in this story were provided by family member Peter Stevens, who gave NBC4 permission to use them. Note that this story contains an image of the burial.
KNOX COUNTY, Ohio (WCMH) – “I bring you greetings on behalf of the family,” the pastor said, opening the funeral standing in the meadow.
“It is a beautiful area,” I said to Besty Stevens as we walked toward her late husband’s burial plot.
“It is,” she agrees.
The Kokosing Nature Preserve in Knox County is a five-mile land conservancy around Kenyon College with 23 of those acres set aside for green burials. Here, lies Lincoln Stevens.
“Lincoln was in a shroud,” Betsy described the burial. “It was a very easy process.”
Lincoln was put in the ground by his family.
“[We had] buckets of flowers so that everyone could put something in,” Betsy said.
There was a choir in the meadow. The family also had the grandchildren perform as a kazoo band.
“The songs Lincoln had sung to them as lullabies,” Betsy recalled.
Closure for the family meant grabbing a shovel.
“Dirt was piled around and everyone just threw a shovel in,” Betsy said.
“In hindsight, good decision?” I asked a family member. “Great decision!”
Peter Stevens, who captured photos of the process, is Lincoln’s son.
“The idea of going back into the earth as the place from where we came as a spiritual reality,” Stevens said.
2,300 plots exist, but only 100 have sold so far. The cost is $2,500 for the plot, and a $2,500 donation to keep the land as is. Amy Henricksen is the land’s steward.
“People want to become the flowers,” Henricksen said. “People want to become the trees, they want to become part of this space.”
The Stevens family picnics here, because it is not a cemetery.
“Oh this place isn’t cleaned up, take the weeds away, it’s almost the opposite here,” I said to Betsy as we looked at the weeds surrounding her husband’s grave marker. “It is the opposite,” she confirmed.
“Everyone felt a great degree of comfort and ease,” Betsy said.
“And that continues?” I asked, knowing the answer. “That continues,” she nodded.
It’s that feeling for families that makes it all worth it for the groundskeeper.
“To come here and hear the sounds of nature and life and that their loved ones have been returned to that nature cycle,” Henrickson said as she looked into the acres of green. “And think they can feel like, they’re here.”