I believe we can transform the way we view end of life passages. Today. Not next year or a few years from now. As this article points out, in western culture we are making changes both individually and collectively about how we handle death and remembrance. Says Judith Johnson,
“People are choosing memorial services and celebrations in addition to or instead of a traditional funeral. This allows for a more personalized ritual customized to the particular beliefs and sensibilities of the deceased. It also allows for both mourning the loss of a loved one and celebrating the life he or she lived.”
And I add to her observation: people finding opportunity in holding Celebrations of Life as a support ritual for caregivers, family and friends. A celebration may occur prior to a final transition (aka a Living Funeral) or afterward. The motivation here is tapping into a mutual sense of connection – a safe place to pause, remember or celebrate – in whatever belief framework is relevant.
Image via Wikipedia
Often a person will request no funeral, no service, nothing – in their final wishes. Maybe this is due to being a very private person. It is more likely though, his or her request has more to do with having sat through one too many drawn out funeral services where afterlife of the deceased was the focus, not supporting the mourners through storytelling and truly celebrating the life of someone well-loved.
Here is where I see the opportunity for transformation: shifting our focus. Viewing death as a natural part of life and thereby choosing rituals or services that fit our stories, values and belief systems. It takes work, yes. And I’ll keep posting ideas and resources about why it is worthwhile.
By posting entries to this blog, my primary hope is to share and build resources. I will offer meaningful ways of acknowledging living into dying – and ultimately, death – with creative rituals and ceremony.
While reading last night, I came across this passage by Ronald Grimes in his book ‘Deeply into the Bone‘:
Social, economic and political forces only partly account for shifts in death ways. Rites also emerge or decline when a people’s way of imagining a passage changes. How death is imagined in America depends on who is doing the imagining.
Mr. Grimes got me thinking: how we celebrate life and death is truly up to our Great Imaginations! (When we give ourselves the permission, of course.) It is the choice of: an individual; a family; or a collection of friends to put their imaginations to use.
So where is my imagination headed for blogging here this year? I will bring you:
Spring bloom from a grave
- Stories and Interviews ~ from clients I’ve served in Tucson, who charted their own celebrations and reconfigured death rites into what has meaning based on their stories, beliefs and values.
- Resources in North America ~ highlights about people and grassroots organizations providing natural and family centered death care or memorial services and products.
- Inspirations for music and prose ~ expressly for celebrating a life, from artists around the world!
- Simple and real-life ideas ~ for honoring losses of varied kinds, including animal companions. (Sorry – no drippy, lofty language full of grandeur and promises of afterlife!)
Anything else you are interested in on these topics? Please comment and let me know. I look forward to building a conversation!
As a Life Cycle Celebrant, I serve people at all stages of life’s milestones: new life, love and loss. I recently completed in-depth training about caring for our own at home – to help families care for their own departed. Today I found relevant articles that revealed two themes underpinning why I do this work: choices and connection for bereaved families.
One tells of the burgeoning home funeral trend, where we are returning to practices we know from our ancestors. The sobering photo in the article shows an elderly rancher looking at his coffin, handmade by his sons. It is a still shot from the film “A Family Undertaking“, which offers glimpses into contemporary family-led funerals. The other article tells how families are decreasing their funeral or memorial spending out of necessity during this slow economy. According to the independent funeral homes interviewed, families are more frequently opting out of the costliest line items and simplifying by choosing direct cremation.
Is the slow economy the only driver, I wonder? Or is this trend away from heavy spending on energy and material intensive products (steel caskets, concrete vaults and embalming) really a broader indicator? Is it a wake up call for not only Baby Boomers – yet all of us – to notice how we may return to simpler, less costly choices at the end of the road? Choices that involve deep connections through family care, support from a home funeral guide and perhaps even natural burial?
An interesting convergence of themes I think, these choices and connections for grieving families. Is a home funeral right for everyone? Well, no. Yet, with healthy planning and families holding an intention for death care at home, the end of the road may potentially become more emotionally healing and less costly in many ways.