“Honor the dead, heal the living, and invite in the divine.”
These are the words of Joe Sehee, founder and program officer for the Green Burial Council. Sehee is one of the people the audience meets in the story of doctor, musician, and folk dancer Clark Wang and his journey to have a green burial in the documentary, A Will for the Woods.
I requested to review this documentary not only because it looked interesting, but also for personal reasons. Since my father passed in 2013, I have looked for ways to help those who are entering the end of their life as well as those who care for the dying.
Clark Wang not only wanted to have a burial that helped heal the Earth, but he also wanted to be able to help those who came after him. He wanted to help those who wanted an alternative to traditional burial or cremation options. Clark got the green burial he wanted, a burial with no embalming, no vault, and nothing that would harm the planet.
The film follows his story through the end stages of his life and introduces us to the people who journey with him during this time. There is: Jane Ezzard, Clark’s partner who is walking this path with as much enthusiasm as Clark is; Dyanne Matzkevich, the manager at Pine Forest Memorial Gardens in Wake Forest, North Carolina, who helped Clark achieve the kind of funeral plans he wanted by her persistence and proposals to Pine Forest’s owners in opening the first green burial park in the area; and Kelly Lennon Weaver, a dear friend of Clark’s that met in a cancer support group and who he and Jane helped care for during her battle with breast cancer. Of course, we meet Joe Sehee, as well as Billy and Kimberley Campbell, other members of the Green Burial Council who opened and run the Ramsey Creek Preserve in South Carolina.
I really enjoyed this film for both the sweet parts and the difficult parts as well. Being a witness to scenes from Clark’s home funeral were really beautiful. There was no creepiness of strangeness as one might think, it was all very natural. The scenes of Jane sleeping next to Clark were heartbreakingly beautiful as we get an intimate glimpse into watching her process of mourning and saying good-bye.
There are also scenes in the film that follow Joe Sehee as he tries to spread the word about green burial and its benefits. We also get to see some of the people in the death industry that view him as an enemy to the industry.
Some of the deleted scenes could have been left in to tell a more complete story, For instance, the way it is edited, it appeared as if Clark went to Seattle for experimental treatment and then passed right after getting there. After watching the deleted scenes, it was evident this was not the case. There were also some areas in the documentary where the audio was too low and it was hard to understand what people were saying. At one point, there is even a huge audio glitch that startled me. However, these minor grievances don’t take away from Clark’s story or the people who came along on his journey.
This documentary runs 94 minutes and is distributed by First Run Features. The extras on the DVD include extended, deleted scenes and follow-up scenes. A Will for the Woods is directed by Amy Browne, Jeremy Kaplan, Tony Hale, and Brian Wilson.
A Will for the Woods is a documentary that deserves to be seen not just because of Clark’s story, but because people deserve to know they have options at the end of their life. If you want more information on these topics, you can go to the film’s website www.awillforthewoods.com as well as to the Green Burial Council’s website www.greenburialcouncil.org
I will go to sleep tonight thinking about Clark and Jane and Kelly, as well as Joe and Dyanne. We don’t get a say in how we are born, but all of these folks are working to make sure we sure get a say in how we die.