The week of November 8, 2010, I served a family while caring for their elegant mother in their home – after she peacefully transitioned in her sleep. They had intensively and sensitively cared for her the past few years, so a home funeral was a very natural extension of their efforts. How they entered the work of caring for her body at home with pure stamina, gentle awareness and the tenderest kind of courage simply leaves me speechless.
As I left their home after a nearly twelve hour day of supporting their work, neighbors began visiting. The day had included an array of decisions and tending to legal details, communication, physical care and paperwork. By evening, gifts of food, flowers, wine, poetry and photos came pouring in. I paused for a bit outside, to witness expressions of both laughter and tears. I saw children, young adults and elderly all standing together to support the family. They were helping each other carry what was too big to carry alone in that moment: be it grief, relief or sadness. And all the while, the deceased was naturally lying in grace for people to sit with, too. It was poignant and oh, so very real.
This story from the New York Times yesterday, conveys many of the reasons why I feel the practice of home funerals is re-emerging. Increasingly, people want to hold celebrations for life passages at home: weddings, anniversaries, or even memorials. According to this article, 80% want to carry out the sacred act of dying at home, too.
The scenes I witnessed while serving the family I’ve described here, all illustrate the power of honest and open dialogue about caring for our own at home. What are your wishes about your final days? Do they involve being at home? Are you conveying these ideas to your loved ones? Opening ourselves to this dialogue is one of the kindest gifts we can give each other, in my humble opinion.