Being in the business of making caskets for people looking for an alternative to the standard funeral home offerings I am sometimes asked "Can I have a funeral at home?". In the past my answer has been "I think so but I'm not sure how." So, when an opportunity came up to learn how I thought it would be a good way to help people with their planning.
The instructor for the "Home Funeral Practicum" had a career as a funeral director and embalmer in the past and has more recently become part of the growing green burial movement. He is also a home funeral guide, helping people take care of a loved one in their home after they have died, with or without the services of a funeral director. His goal was not to prescribe a right or wrong way to do things. He presented information from laws to logistics with the hope that every individual could find their place on the spectrum of care options from total DIY (with the appropriate permits and government forms) to greener and less invasive options from the funeral homes.
The participants were diverse in both their geography and their professional backgrounds. There were people in attendance from all 3 Maritime provinces and careers from nurses and ministers to farmers. The common thread was an interest in how we can better care for people in the days after their death. There were many times that the facilitator would have to re-focus the group as spirited discussions arose from people who are passionate about changing the way we treat people who have died and how we deal with their body. Often these conversations were continued around the tables at meal times and around the fireplace at the end of the day.
The "practicum" part of the weekend saw groups going through the steps that might be involved in taking care of a person who has died at home using live models. My group was tasked with finding our model "dead" on the stairs and had to work together to move them carefully onto a body board and secure them so we could bring them up the stairs. From there we cleaned the body and placed it in a casket that had previously been painted with words and images that were meaningful to her. The last day saw us plan 2 types of funerals: one sombre and formal, the second a more lighthearted celebration of life complete with wisecracks and a singing procession.
All in all it was an informative weekend spent with passionate people. The connections that were made are sure to last into the future as we all do our part to help people regain autonomy of their deathcare.
PS: The model in the photo is my friend Denise who is very much alive!