FLORENCE, Colo. — For the first time in Colorado, the remains of a person who went through human body decomposition were laid out in the hills of Fremont County Sunday.
Human composting became legal in Colorado last year as a green alternative to burial or cremation. Now the body of the first person to go through the process has been converted to soil and spread on the land.
"It’s a very special time," said Ben Martin with The Natural Funeral as he addressed dozens of people who gathered for a ceremony outside of Florence. "It's a very special first-in-Colorado moment."
Never before in this state have people gathered to plant new life in this way after the end of someone else’s life.
"I think this is the first time anything quite like this has happened -- certainly in Colorado, maybe anywhere," Seth Viddal said.
Viddal runs The Natural Funeral. They’re the first in the state to offer human body composting as an alternative to traditional funeral options like burial or cremation.
On the day of the spring equinox, he was ready to give back to the earth the remains of first person in Colorado to go through this form of decomposition after death.
"They were laid in as a beloved and they will lay out as a living soil gift back to this preserve," Viddal said. "It will nourish the land that’s here. It will be a foundation for the seeds that we’re mixing into that soil today. It’ll be the foundation of life here forever."
Six months inside a handmade vessel filled with wood chips, alfalfa and straw led to a Sunday afternoon outside of Florence.
"We’re going to mix flower seeds and natural native grass seeds into that soil and the group is going to be invited to participate in giving that soil back to this preserve," Viddal said.
The soil produced from human decomposition can be used in gardens and fields to grow things like trees, shrubs and flowers. There are strict laws preventing the soil from being used to grow any food that people could eat.
Sunday's ceremony took place at the Colorado Burial Preserve, a new green burial location and alternative to a traditional cemetery.
Dozens of people gathered at the ceremony to spread the soil and place the remains of the man who went through the decomposition process back into the ground, this time as soil.
"We’re here to reverentially honor the trailblazing choice that this Colorado family has made to be the first to return their loved one’s body to the earth by way of body composting," Martin said. "We’re going to mix in it the promise of new life."
Even after death, relationships grow. Now the man who was placed in the vessel six months ago is helping new parts of nature grow.
"The cycle of life is truly going to continue as a result of what is happening today," Viddal said. "More than anything, this proves that we can do this. That this can be very meaningful to families. That this can be a very sacred way to deal with a loved one following loss."
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