In the 1990s, the alternative rock music scene exploded. One band from the era, Belly, had a hit with their song “Feed the Tree”. Here are some of its lyrics:
This old man I've talked about
Broke his own heart,
Poured it in the ground
Big red tree grew up and out...
...be there when I feed the tree
The subject matter was unlikely for a mainstream hit song. The tree in the lyrics refers to a tree on a family farm under which family members would be buried. The singer speaks of visiting her father’s grave and feeling connected to him. In this case, “feed the tree” refers to the way a body buried in the dirt gives back to the earth by nourishing the land.
Even if you don’t know this song, you may connect to its message. If trees hold a lot of symbolism for you, read on for inspiration on how you can “become” a tree when you die — or at least how you can feed the tree.
Tip: If you're interested in other unique ways to honor a loved one, you can consider a custom urn from a store like Foreverence or even have a memorial diamond made from ashes with a company like Eterneva.
1. Tree Pod Burial
At least one company offers an option for people to have their ashes interred in a burial urn that also nourishes the soil. These tree pod burials are probably the closest you can get to turning into a tree when you die.
Before you become a tree, you first need to be cremated. Then your ashes are placed into a biodegradable urn and topped with a proprietary mixture of soil and nutrients. Finally, the roots of a young tree are potted in the urn. Once this is done, you plant the cremation urn and its contents. Over time, the biodegradable urn will break down. The soil and nutrients will help the tree to flourish. And the cremated ashes will remain in the root system, gradually mixing in with the soil over time.
This is a great burial solution for people with a property they plan to keep in the family for generations. Instead of a family cemetery, you can have a grove of trees honoring family members who have passed away. When you miss your late loved ones, you can go visit the trees and feel connected to them even years after they’ve died. It can also help you feel as though you will continue living on with the rest of the family after you die. The symbolism is meaningful to everyone in the family, living and deceased.
You can order a tree from the company, or pick one out yourself from a local nursery. Certain trees signify different things.
You might select a tree based on what you think it says about yourself or a deceased loved one. Or you might select it based on a more personal connection. Maybe there’s a certain type of tree that represents a special place or time for you or a deceased loved one.
You can select a tree that you feel really speaks to the kind of person the deceased was. And over the years, as you visit it, you can know that it in some way was nourished by your loved one.
2. Planting a Tree in a Loved One’s Memory
You don’t have to inter your loved one’s ashes in the base of a tree. If your loved one would rather be buried or have other plans for their ashes, it wouldn’t make sense. But you can still plant a memorial tree in their honor. Or, you can ask your own loved ones to plant a tree to memorialize you. As we mentioned earlier, different kinds of trees can have different symbolic meanings. Here are some popular kinds of trees and their meanings.
We’ve also broken down some suggestions about who these kinds of trees might be appropriate for.
- Alder: An alder tree signifies endurance, passion, and strength. It makes a great memorial tree for a longtime significant other.
- Apple: Apple trees carry a lot of symbolism. They represent beauty, generosity, and love. They also represent fertility and maternity in many cultures. An apple tree is a great way to memorialize a mother. You can also use the fruit it bears in family recipes to help you feel connected to her even long after she’s gone.
- Ash: Ash trees can represent wisdom. They are a great tree to represent a family elder who has provided guidance to many generations of family members.
- Birch: Birch trees can symbolize youth and new beginnings. It’s a sweet way to memorialize a child who has passed away. It could also be planted symbolically in the wake of a miscarriage or stillbirth.
- Elder: Many people believe that death is not the end of our journey. It’s just the beginning of a new phase in our spiritual evolution. Elder trees symbolize continuation, evolution, and transition. They are a perfect send-off for someone who believes in a higher power or that life goes on in some way after death.
- Oak: Most people know that oaks are known to represent strength and stability. They work great as a tribute to someone who was a pillar of strength in your family.
- Rowan: Rowan represents protection. If someone in your family defended others in need, rowan is a great symbol for them. Looking at a rowan planted in memorial can also help you feel as though your loved one is watching over you.
- Yew: Yews can signify transference and passage. Like elder trees, they’re a great way to memorialize someone who believes that our consciousness lives on after death.
Beyond the symbolism though, you need to pay attention to other factors. Make sure the tree you like will work in the climate where you’re planting it. Choose trees that are hardier and long-lived. A memorial tree is meant to be a living monument that has passed away. You want it to last for a long time, to be healthy and thrive. You can read our guide on the best memorial trees for more.
3. Scattering Ashes in a Forest
If you love the great outdoors, you may want to be part of them after you pass away. You can ask your loved ones to scatter or place your ashes in a wilderness environment that meant a lot to you.
Many public outdoor spaces, like national parks, allow people to scatter ashes under certain circumstances. You usually need to get permission from the park services. You may also need to request a paper permit. You’ll often need to step off the trail or developed area, so you need to put a safety plan in place. If you wander too far off the trails, you could get lost!
You can scatter the ashes. However, some people find this process messy or disturbing. In that case, you can look into biodegradable urns. Biodegradable urns will naturally break down over time in the natural elements. So leaving them out will have no long-term impact on the environment. Once they break down, the ashes will naturally scatter on their own.
You can even get biodegradable urns with forest-scapes on them, so they blend into their surroundings. Whenever your loved ones hike the trails and look at the trees, they’ll feel connected to you.
4. Eco-Friendly Burial at Green Cemetery
Over the past few years, the funeral industry has really begun to shift. More and more people are realizing that traditional funerals can generate a lot of pollution. So people have begun exploring green burial alternatives. One of these is being interred in a green cemetery.
In a green cemetery, bodies are buried without the trappings of a traditional burial. Regular caskets are built out of hardwoods and metal and don’t easily break down in the earth. In a green burial. The body is wrapped in a natural cloth or buried in a biodegradable casket. The body isn’t embalmed, as the chemicals used in that process can leach into the soil.
Green cemeteries are often in natural areas surrounded by trees. If you decide to be interred in one, know that your body will help enrich the soil. Additionally, the fees you pay for burial usually go into an endowment that funds upkeep for the cemetery in perpetuity. In a very real way, you’ll be enhancing the beauty of this space for years to come.
How to Become a Tree When You Die
In almost every culture around the world, trees carry a great deal of symbolism. To many people, they serve as a metaphor for life. Trees start out as small seedling, and over time they grow bigger and let their branches spread out. Like people, trees develop as individuals. Life may leave scars on them, but it only makes them stronger.
When we die, it can be comforting for our loved ones to look at a tree and see us represented in some way. It can also be comforting to us to know that when we leave the earth, our spirit will live on through the imagery of a tree.