Following the Quaker tenet of the SPICES (simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality, and stewardship), Quaker burials are very simple. Historically, Quakers did not have headstones as they wanted the graves to have an equality to them that would be disturbed by the presence of large, ornate headstones (that only few could afford). That morphed into the practice of having very minimal stones with a slight curve at the top that come only 6-10 inches above the ground. These stones are known as pillowtop or Quaker style headstones.

A Silent Meeting

Quakers may be cremated or buried. Stewardship of the earth is a spiritual concern for Quakers and for that reason many Quaker burials are increasingly becoming Green burials. They often avoid embalming chemicals, concrete vaults, and metal caskets in their efforts to create an eco-friendly burial process. Simplicity has also guided Quakers towards having very plain burial containers (such as a simple pine box). Burials generally begin with a “silent meeting” or “meeting for worship”. Friends and family will gather around the gravesite or a specified location and reflect on the deceased person and the life they lived. They will remain in silence listening for messages from the divine and if someone is compelled to say something they will do so spontaneously. There are no set rituals or customs at the graveside other than what people are compelled to do during their gathering. The focus stays on the deceased person and their relationship to the divine. There is no universal Quaker answer or view on what happens after death.

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