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Graceful Exits

How fascinating: Tying end-of-life issues with humor (“Dying is Easy; Comedy is Hard,” fall 2018) grabbed me.

Bravo to Sandy ’55 and Ruth Mary Cooper Lamb ’56: Your approach recalls for me Eugene Farley ’50, the founder of the family medicine program at the University of Rochester, where I was on the faculty in 1969–70.

Both Gene and Lindy, his wife, were family physicians and had spent time on the Navajo reservation. When Lindy died, Gene went to the township to see if any laws would prohibit him from burying her on their Verona, Wis., farm in the Navajo fashion: without embalming and before sundown the next day. No one could find anything, so he wrapped her in a blanket and buried her.

Then he established on the farm a site for others to do the same thing. It exists today. Anyone buried there is in an unmarked grave, but recorded in the office are GPS coordinates so family and others can visit the site. When Gene died, their sons continued on and also turned the farm into a Quaker conference center for peace activism.

When my wife, Donogh McCutcheon Phillips ’55, died, she contributed her body to the University of Washington School of Medicine. When her ashes were returned to us, the kids and I personally poured them in and filled the grave; no urn or liner. When I die, the same donation is set up with similar burial of ashes requested.

Thanks again to Ruth and Sandy and their example.

—TED PHILLIPS ’55, Issaquah, Wash.