‘Soul midwife’ offers companionship to the dying in their final moments

Linda Jane McCurrach is an end-of-life doula – a non-medical, holistic companion who guides and helps people to have a gentle and tranquil death.

Linda McCurrach says it a privilege to do the job she does

By Maria Croce

Midwives are associated with helping to bring new life into the world. But there’s another type who are there at the end, when people are dying.

Linda Jane McCurrach is a “soul midwife” or end-of-life doula – a non-medical, holistic companion who guides and supports the dying to help them have a gentle and tranquil death.

She describes the people she supports as friends and says it’s about helping them have a “good” death. But she admits some people initially find it difficult to grasp the idea that there can be a positive side to something so finite.

Linda Jane added: “People don’t even want to think about having a good death because they can’t imagine dying.

“But in eastern culture, they believe that only by looking at our death can we live fully.”

She sees some parallels between conventional midwives who bring new life into the world and her role for the souls who are leaving.

cancer about 18 months ago, Linda Jane was able to be by her side.

Linda pictured as a baby with her late mum Myra McCurrach, who she was able to be with at her death

She said: “I couldn’t imagine my mum not having someone there. I thought, ‘What would it be like for someone to be on their own?’ It really struck home that I can help people going through this alone.”

Linda Jane has now launched a charity called No One Dies Alone Ayrshire.

For those who are alone, it aims to provide companions in the last 48 hours of life. It also offers respite for those with families.

Companions will offer support at home, in care homes, in hospital and hospices and will enable people to die according to their wishes.

The charity has started its work in East Ayrshire with plans to expand into the rest of the county.

Linda Jane, 48, has five children – Jordan, 23, Lewis, 22, Kai, 17, Nathan, 15 and Freya, eight – and lives near Newmilns in Ayrshire.

Having had difficult experiences and relationship break-ups, she said death puts everything else into perspective.

She added: “You have a greater sense of what’s important.”

The hardest part of her role is when people open up to her in their final days.

She said: “It can be hard to then move back into a normal life. But I surround myself with the right people who help me with that.”

She remembers the first time she sat with someone who was dying.

Linda Jane said: “I was concerned with doing everything right. It wasn’t until the end I realised it’s not really about the stuff you know and the things you can do, it’s about being there.

“Death is individual. It’s not scary. But if the person is feeling a bit scared, you can be a loving presence to help them get through.”

She said the dying want to know what’s happening to them.

Linda’s beloved mum Myra McCurrach who died from cancer 18 months ago

Linda Jane added: “People want to know the process. It’s not commonly spoken about.”

She also helps them make peace with the world.

“Ultimately, death is the major letting go in our lives,” she said. “We have to let go of everything and it starts with letting go of the past.

“Sometimes they need to get things off their chest or make amends with family members and things weighing heavily with them.

“And everybody wants to know where they’re going to go afterwards. Having a visualisation of somewhere they would like to go really helps with that, for instance a meadow full of bluebells.”

Although she’s less scared of dying herself now, Linda Jane said she wouldn’t want to leave her children yet.

She added: “I think hopefully by the time I die, I’ll be ready. I know death can be positive and beautiful.”

Complete Article HERE!

Washington passes bill to become first state to compost human bodies

“We’re making about a cubic yard of soil per person,” the founder of the company Recompose said.

Finished materials from the human-body composting process.

By Ben Guarino

It may soon be legal for the dead to push daisies, or any other flower, in backyard gardens across Washington state. The state legislature recently passed a bill that, if signed by the governor, allows human bodies to be composted — and used for mulch.

As the nation ages, U.S. funeral practices are changing. Rates of cremation surpassed 50 percent in 2016, overtaking burials as the most popular choice. The Census Bureau, in a 2017 report, predicted a death boom: 1 million more Americans are projected to die in 2037 than they did in 2015. Human composting, its supporters say, is an eco-friendly option that can meet this growing demand. A Seattle-based company called Recompose plans to offer a service called “natural organic reduction” (it has two patents pending) that uses microbes to transform the departed — skin, bones and all.

“We have this one universal human experience, of death, and technology has not changed what we do in any meaningful way,” said state Sen. Jamie Pedersen (D), who introduced the bill, which passed with bipartisan support on April 19. “There are significant environmental problems” with burying and burning bodies, he said.

Joshua Trey Barnett, an expert on ecological communication at the University of Minnesota at Duluth, listed the flaws in conventional burials: “We embalm bodies with toxic solutions, bury them in expensive caskets made of precious woods and metals and then indefinitely commit them to a plot of land.” Though incineration has a smaller ecological footprint, estimates suggest the average cremated body emits roughly 40 pounds of carbon and requires nearly 30 gallons of fuel to burn.

The bill awaits Gov. Jay Inslee (D), who placed climate change at the center of the presidential bid he announced in March. “The bill passed the legislature with bipartisan support and appears to be eco-friendly,” said Tara Lee, a spokeswoman in Inslee’s office. Inslee has 20 days to review the bill, which arrived on his desk Thursday. “He has not stated how he will act on this,” Lee said.

Burial practices are largely matters of state, not federal, law. The bill, which would take effect on May 1, 2020, also would legalize alkaline hydrolysis. That method turns bodies to liquid using a base such as lye. In the past decade, more than a dozen states have approved it.

Pedersen said he would be “shocked, frankly,” if the governor did not sign the bill into law.

Recompose founder Katrina Spade met Pedersen in a Seattle coffee shop last year and pitched the idea of legalizing human composting. The company’s system, she said, is a souped-up version of natural microbial decomposition. “It is actually the same process happening on the forest floor as leaf litter, chipmunks and tree branches decompose and turn into topsoil,” Spade said

The company’s service, which would include a funeral ceremony, will cost about $5,500, she said (more than the average cremation but less than burial in a casket). Microbes go to work within a large vessel, about eight feet tall and four feet wide, that fits a single body along with alfalfa, straw and wood chips. Over the course of 30 days, as temperatures in the vessel rise to 150 degrees, decomposition destroys the body, along with most pathogens and pharmaceuticals, Spade said.

Pacemakers would be removed beforehand; artificial joints or other implants sifted out afterward. “We’re making about a cubic yard of soil per person,” Spade said. Families would be allowed to take the compost home, or, because it’s a lot of soil, donate it to conservation groups in the Puget Sound region. Restrictions on where the soil could be applied would mirror rules for scattering ashes — broadly speaking, only on land with an owner’s permission.

The decomposition technique “is now a fairly common procedure” used to dispose of livestock carcasses, said Lynne Carpenter-Boggs, a soil scientist at Washington State University and an adviser to Recompose. During an outbreak of avian flu, Carpenter-Boggs helped farmers implement a similar method to destroy potentially infected poultry.

Carpenter-Boggs recently oversaw a pilot study in which Recompose composted six donated cadavers. The results are still unpublished, but Recompose claimed in a news release the soil met safety thresholds set by the state’s ecology department.

“The material we had, at the end, was really lovely,” Carpenter-Boggs said. “I’d be happy to have it in my yard.”

Barnett said the media often inflates the “ick factor” of human composting. “Very few people I talk with have this response,” he said. He added: “If most folks knew the ins and outs of embalming, I suspect they would find it much ickier in fact than composting

Spade said she has been deluged by emails from those who want to be composted, with particularly enthusiastic correspondents from California, Colorado and Vermont, and overseas from Brazil, the Netherlands and Australia.

“I have a few friends at some of the assisted-living facilities here in Seattle,” Spade said, “and these folks are in their mid-80s saying: ‘Look, we want these options. … We care about the last gesture we leave on this earth.’ ”

Complete Article HERE!

The funeral as we know it is becoming a relic

— just in time for a death boom

By Karen Heller

Dayna West knows how to throw a fabulous memorial shindig. She hired Los Angeles celebration-of-life planner Alison Bossert — yes, those now exist — to create what West dubbed “Memorialpalooza” for her father, Howard, in 2016 a few months after his death.

“None of us is going to get out of this alive,” says Bossert, who helms Final Bow Productions. “We can’t control how or when we die, but we can say how we want to be remembered.”

And how Howard was remembered! There was a crowd of more than 300 on the Sony Pictures Studios. A hot-dog cart from the famed L.A. stand Pink’s. Gift bags, the hit being a baseball cap inscribed with “Life’s not fair, get over it” (a beloved Howardism). A constellation of speakers, with Jerry Seinfeld as the closer (Howard was his personal manager). And babka (a tribute to a favorite “Seinfeld” episode).

“My dad never followed rules,” says West, 56, a Bay Area clinical psychologist. So why would his memorial service

Death is a given, but not the time-honored rituals. An increasingly secular, nomadic and casual America is shredding the rules about how to commemorate death, and it’s not just among the wealthy and famous. Somber, embalmed-body funerals, with their $9,000 industry average price tag, are, for many families, a relic. Instead, end-of-life ceremonies are being personalized: golf-course cocktail send-offs, backyard potluck memorials, more Sinatra and Clapton, less “Ave Maria,” more Hawaiian shirts, fewer dark suits. Families want to put the “fun” in funerals

The movement will only accelerate as the nation approaches a historic spike in deaths. Baby boomers, despite strenuous efforts to stall the aging process, are not getting any younger. In 2030, people over 65 will outnumber children, and by 2037, 3.6 million people are projected to die in the United States, according to the Census Bureau, 1 million more than in 2015, which is projected to outpace the growth of the overall population

Just as nuptials have been transformed — who held destination weddings in the ’90s? — and gender-reveal celebrations have become theatrical productions, the death industry has experienced seismic changes over the past couple of decades. Practices began to shift during the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s, when many funeral homes were unable to meet the needs of so many young men dying, and friends often hosted events that resembled parties.

Now, many families are replacing funerals (where the body is present) with memorial services (where the body is not). Religious burial requirements are less a consideration in a country where only 36 percent of Americans say they regularly attend religious services, nearly a third never or rarely attend, and almost a quarter identify as agnostic or atheist, according to the Pew Research Center.

Funeral homes adapt
More than half of all American deaths lead to cremations, compared to 28 percent in 2002, due to expense (they can cost a third the price of a burial), the environment, and family members living far apart with less ability to visit cemetery plots, according to the National Funeral Directors Association. By 2035, the cremation rate is projected to be a staggering 80 percent, the association says. And cremation frees loved ones to stage a memorial anywhere, at any time, and to store or scatter ashes as they please. (Maintenance of cemeteries, if families stop using them, may become a preservation and financial problem

Past funeral association president Mark Musgrove, who runs a network of funeral homes and chapels in Eugene, Ore., says his industry, already marked by consolidation, is adapting to changing demands.

“Services are more life-centered, around the person’s personality, likes and dislikes. They’re unique and not standardized,” he says. “The only way we can survive is to provide the services that families find meaningful.”

Funeral homes have hired event planners, remodeled drab parlors to include dance floors and lounge areas, acquired liquor licenses to replace the traditional vat of industrial-strength coffee. In Oregon, where cremation rates are near 80 percent, Musgrove has organized memorial celebrations at golf courses and Autzen Stadium, home of the Ducks. He sells urns that resemble giant golf balls and styles adorned with the University of Oregon logo. In a cemetery, his firm installed a “Peace Columbarium,” a retrofitted 1970s VW van, brightly painted with “Peace” and “Love,” to house urns.

Change has sparked nascent death-related industries in a culture long besotted with youth. There are death doulas (caring for the terminally ill), death cafes (to discuss life’s last chapter over cake and tea), death celebrants (officiants who lead end-of-life events), living funerals (attended by the honored while still breathing), and end-of-life workshops (for the healthy who think ahead). The Internet allows lives to continue indefinitely in memorial Facebook pages, tribute vlogs on YouTube and instamemorials on Instagram.

Memorials are no longer strictly local events. As with weddings and birthdays, families are choosing favorite vacation idylls as final resting spots. Captain Ken Middleton’s Hawaii Ash Scatterings performs 600 cremains dispersals a year for as many as 80 passengers on cruises that may feature a ukulele player, a conch-shell blower and releases of white doves or monarch butterflies.

“It makes it a celebration of life and not such a morbid affair,” says Middleton. His service is experiencing annual growth of 15 to 20 percent.

From coffins to compost
With increased concern for the environment, people are opting for green funerals, where the body is placed in a biodegradable coffin or shroud.

The industry is literally thinking outside the box.

“My work is letting people connect with the natural cycle as they die,” says Katrina Spade of Recompose in Seattle, who considers herself part of the “alternative death-care movement.” If its legislature grants approval this month, Washington will become the first state in the nation to approve legalized human composting. Her company plans to use wood chips, alfalfa and straw to turn bodies into a cubic yard of top soil in 30 days. That soil could be used to fertilize a garden, or a grove of trees, the body literally returned to the earth.

Spade questions why death should be a one-event moment, rather than an opportunity to create an enduring tradition, a deathday, to honor the deceased: “I want to force my family to choose a ritual that they do every year.”

Death has inspired Etsy-like enterprises that transform a loved one’s ashes into vinyl, “diamonds,” jewelry and tattoos. Ashes to ashes, dust to art.

After Seattle artist Briar Bates died in 2017 at age 42, four dozen friends performed her joyous water ballet in a public wading pool, “a fantastic incarnation of Briar’s spirit,” says friend Carey Christie. “Anything other than denial that you’re going to die is a healthy step in our culture.”

Funeral consultant Elizabeth Meyer wrote the memoir “Good Mourning” and named her website Funeral Guru Liz. Her motto: “Bringing Death to Life.” She notes, “Most people do not plan. What’s changing is more people are talking about it, and the openness of the conversation. Our world will be a better place when people let their wishes be known.”

In 2012, Amy Pickard’s mother “died out of the blue.” She was unprepared but also transformed. Now, she’s “the death girl,” an advocate for the “death-positive movement,” sporting a “Life is a near-death experience” T-shirt, teaching people how to plan by hosting monthly Good to Go parties in Los Angeles and offering a $60 “Departure File,” 50 pages to address almost every need.

“We’re still in the really early days of super-creative funerals. There’s this censorship of death and grief,” Pickard says. “You have the rest of your life to be sad over the person who died. The hope is to celebrate their time on Earth and who they were.”

Overshadowing grief?
Some practitioners worry that death has taken a holiday, and grief is too frequently banished in end-of-life celebrations that seem like birthday blowouts.

“Do you think we’re getting too happy with this?” asks Amy Cunningham, director of the Inspired Funeral in Brooklyn. “You can’t pay tribute to someone who has died without acknowledging the death and sadness around it. You still have to dip into reality and not ignore the fact that they’re absent now

But even sadness is being treated differently. In some services, instead of offering hollow platitudes that barely relate to the deceased, “we are getting a new radical honesty where people are openly talking about alcoholism, drug use and the tough times the person experienced,” Cunningham says. Suicide, long hidden, appears more in obituaries; opioid addiction, especially, is addressed in services.

West, who hosted such a memorable send-off for her father, has some plans for her own: “Great food and live music, preferably Latin-inspired,” and “my personal possessions are auctioned off,” the proceeds benefiting a children’s charity. Why can’t a memorial serve as a fundraiser?

An avid traveler, West plans to designate friends to disperse her cremains in multiple locations “that have significance in my life” and leave funds to subsidize those trips — a global, destination ash-scattering.

Complete Article ↪HERE↩!

Woven coffins and affordable funerals as community-run funeral service breathes new life into the death trade

Funeral director Ashleigh Martin with woven casket available at Tender Funerals.

By Sarah Moss

Creative and emotionally healthy funerals are making waves in communities that value personal choices, resourcefulness and good old wholesome naturalness, but for reasons of expense they also appeal to blue collar workers.

A rejuvenated fire station in Port Kembla, cradled between the Illawarra region’s industrial centre and the sea, is home to Tender Funerals: the first not-for-profit funeral service in Australia.

Ashleigh Martin is a part-time director at the parlour.

“We’re about empowering families to make the choices they need to make to have a beautiful funeral,” she said.

“There’s definitely a need in our community for people to be able to have affordable funerals that are authentic.”

Since its inception in 2016, the community-run organisation has guided over 300 families and loved ones through their losses.

The parlour offers a multitude of services that assist people to have memorable personalised ceremonies, the latest trend in the industry is bio-degradable woven wicker coffins, handmade in the Byron Shire.

The funeral parlour in Port Kembla has up-cycled an old firestation turning it into a morgue and reception area, open to the public.

Dignity in death

The not-for-profit is changing the way communities look at death and dying, empowering families to make the choices they need to make, to have a beautiful funeral.

Founder Jenny Briscoe-Hough previously worked in the death industry for

Tender Funerals is the brainchild of director and general manager Jenny Briscoe-Hough.

many years and conceived a new business model by combining funerals with music and art.

The model looks at affordability and encourages people to “own” the experience, to take back their power in the face of death.

“We empower and guide people to have a meaningful, beautiful, send off,” Ms Martin said.

Malika Elizabeth is a local musician whose involvement with the establishment extends to directing and singing in the organisation’s community choir, and acting occasionally as a celebrant.

“She’s a visionary when it comes to community and bringing people together,” Ms Elizabeth said.

“She’s created a space for people just to be with each other, to be with their emotions, and to join together in commonality.”

The hand-woven willow coffins produced in the Byron region are, “sustainably raised from a renewable resource and then hand woven without glues or metals”.

Grassroots ethos

Unlike wooden or cardboard caskets, the woven caskets offered at Tender Funerals are perfect for hand-decorating with ribbons and other personalised items.

“They [clients] just want something unique and different that they can personalise as well by putting flowers on it or weaving through it,” Ms Martin said.

“We know if it is getting buried that it will break down quickly and won’t leach any harmful chemicals into the earth.”

After working in traditional for-profit homes, Ms Martin said that at Tender Funerals it is not about upselling to grieving families.

“It’s very much about thinking about what we can do differently and what we can do to give meaningful tokens back to our families,” she said.

Textile artist Ms Elliot works with cloth and thread assisting people experiencing grief to create vibrant engaging artefacts.

Art for health’s sake

The grassroots ethos is intertwined through every detail of the business, from the handmade and decorated wicker caskets to a fortnightly community sewing circle run by the group.

Tender’s artist-in-residence Michell Elliot illuminates the cyclical nature of life and death with those in grief using muslin and donated funeral flowers.

The colourful cloth she creates is then used as shrouds for bodies, encouraging creative expression to farewell loved ones.

“I think that if clients choose to shroud somebody with one of our tender cloths that it’s done with love, and I think that’s a really beautiful thing,” Ms Martin said.

Ms Elliot also assists in providing a safe space program at the parlour for people to come together, grieve, share stories and sew.

The parlour facilitates a safe meditative space created through the arts for people to connect with their emotions to heal.

“When people feel that maybe they don’t want to see their loved ones being prepared for burial, or they don’t know what to do, how to feel, just sitting and sewing quietly allows those feelings to come, to be processed and to shift and move,” Ms Elliot said.

Music, art and funerals naturally go together

The organisation is also home to an in-house choir.

On Thursday evenings at the old fire station, people come together to sing songs of life, songs of death and songs of love.

Tender Choir facilitators Malika Elizabeth and Jodi Phillis (pictured) believe that bringing sacred ceremony into funerals, that are not necessarily religious, is a good idea.

Choir directors Jodi Phillis and Malika Elizabeth have sung at grave sides, in memorial services and during intimate preparation times.

They said they feel honoured to be at every funeral they attend.

“These elements go together naturally with us because we are musical people, but I think in a community like Port Kembla, where people just aren’t aware that this stuff can actually be available to them, it might be something people just don’t think of,” Ms Phillis said.

“That they can have live music to celebrate the life of the loved one they lost.

According to Ms Phillis the business model adopted by Tender Funerals relies on two fundamental aspects.

“One, to bring the sacred power of music and art into the community, especially for people who aren’t religious but still want to celebrate the life of the deceased,” she said.

“The other really strong element is supporting the arts.”

Selecting the soundtrack for a particular event can be a collaborative experience.

“Generally, families will have an idea of what music will be best for their loved one, but sometimes we make suggestions,” Ms Phillis said.

“It’s kind of whatever works really.”

Malika Elizabeth in consultation with some of the choir members in rehearsal.

“We all have the feeling that music is a spiritual thing,” Ms Phillis said.

“It comes out of us, it’s linked with the heavens, it’s what fills in the gap in the air.

“If anything is going to reach our loved one, it’s going to be music.”

At this point in time Tender’s business model is focussed on the Port Kembla premises, but having survived two years of operations, their success indicates a community movement towards an organic, not-for-profit model, with plans to expand.

Complete Article HERE!

Etiquette and FAQ for choosing flowers for a funeral

A funeral is an important yet highly emotional event that every family has to experience in their lifetime. It is imperative for all members of the family to make sure that just like any other important day of rituals, this day too has a properly defined procedure which most individuals and families choose to follow.

Saying Goodbye to a loved one can be really tough but that doesn’t mean that this ritual has to be executed in a dull manner. Flowers are the most important part of every funeral proceeding. Not only are they a sweet element to convey your remembrance for the person who has left for their heavenly abode, but they are an omen of hope and affection that you hold for your loved one.

This post will provide you with vital funeral etiquettes that you must keep in mind before executing a funeral with your family.

The Less, the Better

Different cultures from all over the world follow a different set of practices when it comes to funeral rituals. While some religions mandatorily use flowers as an important part of their funeral rituals, other cultures either restraint the use of flowers or take decisions as per their own wishes. The first step towards choosing flowers for a ritual is to make sure that you keep it less cluttered. There is no point in choosing a mix of flowers without knowing their significance.

What does each flower stand for?

When you proceed to get flowers for placing in the casket, you must pay attention to the meaning that each type of flower portrays. Below is a list of the most common flowers that individuals prefer for a funeral and what they stand for:

Camelia

Camelia is a flower which represents Gratitude and Respect when placed over the funeral casket of the person who has passed away. Choosing Camelia is a way of thanking the person for their contributions in their entire lifetime.

Roses

There are different colors of roses that you can choose for the funeral, each one of them representing a different level of Love and Affection. While a light pink rose signifies innocence and love, red roses stand for the remembrance of a dearly loved one.

Daffodils and Daisies

An omen of eternal hope and possibilities, daffodils are known to send across hope and positive vibes to the person who has just departed for their heavenly journey. Daisies, on the other hand, signify the presence of good wishes and innocence.

Forget-me-nots

Just as the name says, Forget-me-nots depict the remembrance that you will hold in your heart forever for the person who has passed on.

Lilies

White Lilies are known to be used as funeral flowers across different religions and cultures as a symbol of perpetual peace and admiration for the one who is long gone.

Cultural Differences

It is important to note here that there are a few cultures of the world which restraint or don’t follow the practice of using flowers for a funeral. Placing funeral flowers is a practice which is not preferred to be followed when it comes to Jewish and Islam Cultures. The Indian culture, on the other hand, places a strong emphasis on the usage of flowers, preferably roses which are laid upon the funeral bed.

Different types of funeral flower Arrangements

Depending upon the length of your casket and the wishes of the family, these are the different kinds of flower arrangements that you must know about, before proceeding for the funeral arrangements.

Wreaths

A wreath is a circular shaped floral arrangement which is covered by a bunch of flowers and leaves woven together and held tightly. A wreath is usually made up of different combinations of flowers along with leaves.

Freshly Cut flowers

If you wish to bid Adieu in the simplest and the most beautiful way possible, then you can choose to pay homage with a bunch of raw flowers which can be combined together and placed near the casket.

Floral Casket Tops

This arrangement permits you to adorn the topmost part of your casket with flowers that you choose to put.

Inside the Casket

Placing flowers inside the casket gives your beloved one a floral bed to lay themselves on for the rest of eternity. This arrangement usually requires the accumulation of flower petals or soft flowers which are laid inside the casket.

Complete Article HERE!

When my brother-in-law died, we skipped the funeral parlor and took him home.

By Gary Wasserman

My wife’s brother Rich died the last week in February. They were very close. Shortly after he passed, in the emergency room of a hospital in Washington state, his body came home. There it was wrapped in a Stewart tartan blanket (his family name) and placed on a table in a window alcove facing Mount Baker. He remained there for the next three days clad in a favorite red plaid Pendleton shirt, jeans, moccasins and a much-worn woolen cap, On the second day, his wife, Sharon, put binoculars around his neck, a reminder of his many hours watching the snow geese, hawks, trumpeter swans and bald eagles surrounding his beloved farm.

Sharon was connecting to a movement that had arisen in the 1990s for families to take back responsibility from hired professionals for the caring and mourning of loved ones in the privacy of their homes. It turns out to be an old American tradition.

Before the Civil War, funerals were a family affair. With help from their church and community, family members would wash, display the body and dig the grave for their dead. But, as Civil War historian Drew Gilpin Faust writes in her book “This Republic of Suffering,” the huge numbers of young men dying in the war far from home overwhelmed the personal home funeral. Instead, there was embalming, mass-marketed coffins and transporting bodies long distances. President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, followed by the public display of his embalmed body, became a major moment in the national marketing of this new death trade.

By the 20th century, undertakers were elevated to a professional class of funeral directors, bodies were seen as a risk to public health and the false narrative spread that families no longer had the right to care for their own. The practice of dying at home and family caring for the dead remained common only in rural areas.

Like most of us, Rich and Sharon hadn’t planned their funeral. Unlike us, they had talked and read about death, and attended a class on alternatives to standard funerals. These included arrangements for green burials, where bodies in the ground decompose in compostable caskets. Sharon also had talked with a friend who, with the help of a local home funeral group, had kept her husband’s body at home for three days for visits and prayers.

Rich’s death had been unexpected. A retired ophthalmologist, he had recently been diagnosed with prostate cancer and had his first chemotherapy treatment the week before. He developed sepsis, which can happen after chemo, and died the following day. He was 77.

Sepsis is fast-moving and deadly. Here are the symptoms to recognize

At the hospital’s ER, Sharon explained to two chaplains who sat with her that she wanted to bring Rich home. They put her in touch with A Sacred Moment, a local funeral home that is part of a national network reviving and supporting family-managed funerals.

A “very kind” man, as Sharon put it, from the group took the body to the house in a van. He gave Sharon information on keeping it cold with packs of dry ice and instructions to replace them every 12 to 18 hours. Sharon and her daughter washed and clothed the body.

Rich had passed away at 11 a.m. and by 1 p.m. his body was home.

For the next three days family and friends came by to see Rich. Some talked to him; one shared the beat of an ancient drum; some read poems. Sharon thought that many friends wouldn’t have attended a funeral parlor for a restrained viewing in a limited time. Here they could arrive individually or as family, whenever they wanted, stay as long or little as they could, bring photos or food or prayers or babies or guitars.

Our son Daniel arrived in the middle of the night to sit alone with the uncle who helped raise him.

Sharon found it all incredibly comforting. Rich’s men’s support group of 30 years gathered for a morning of stories of kayaking in Alaska and tales of salmon fishing, hiking and climbing in the North Cascades. The second morning the couple’s Buddhist Sangha meditation group chanted, prayed together and held Sharon as they wept.

Many of the visitors seemed shocked that this was possible, that a body could be brought home for people to mourn however they wanted.

For family, it provided a last chance to talk with Rich, to be with him in a place he loved. Sharon remarked that so many people worried that they “never had a chance to say goodbye.” Now they could, and they didn’t have to look back and regret not saying the right thing.

In their own unplanned way, people could grieve.

At times there was a crowd, at others a solitary friend. A family member lit a vaporizer full of essential oils. Others placed flowers on his body. A table nearby had his notes written when he couldn’t talk because of mouth sores from the chemo and a guest book that soon filled with photos and letters and mementos.

Not everyone showed up — there were no solemn strangers in dark suits timing the starched formalities of yet another ceremony. Rich’s death was wrapped in the life that continued around it. Often there were kids playing, dogs wrestling, women cooking.

At 2 p.m. of the third day, the kindly man from A Sacred Moment returned to take the body. As they carried it out, Sharon played on the piano “It Had To Be You,” which she and Rich had often sung together. This time, she sang it with her daughter, Jo.

Washington state does not allow bodies to be buried outside a cemetery, so he was cremated and his ashes were scattered in his garden. A memorial service will be held when the tulips bloom in early spring.

Complete Article HERE!