Grandma is dying. Family members look online at nearby funeral homes, but it is impossible to compare them as prices are not listed on the websites. They finally just choose a nearby funeral home and arrange a meeting with the funeral director to discuss the funeral. A bewildering menu of options are presented. The director gently encourages the family to hold a full “traditional funeral” with embalming, visitation, a service, a limousine. Various packages are presented. And as for the casket, perhaps the mid-range one – still expensive, but it seems feels wrong to go with the cheapest version. The cemetery requires a grave liner as well. The liner is supposed to help protect the casket.
Grandma dies, and the funeral director arrives quickly to whisk her away in a bodybag. The visitation and service is held at the funeral home, in a windowless room with pink wallpaper and framed prints. At the visitation, grandmother looks cold and waxen in her elegant steel and wood casket, lined in white satin. Later, at the cemetery with its acres of smooth lawns, heavy machinery will dig the grave, lower the casket into it, and cover it over again. The family grieves for their beloved grandmother, and walks away feeling empty and bereft. Later, when the bills are totaled, the family realizes that the funeral and cemeteries fees added up to more than $11,000, which further adds to their stress.
It does not have to be this way. Contrast the above scenario with the below.
Grandma is dying. The family decides that rather than using a funeral director, they will care for her themselves at home after death. She is in hospice, so when she dies they will call the hospice nurse, who will come out to certify the death. They do the research on how to act as their own funeral director, which they know is a legal option.
When Grandmother dies, the family is prepared. At first, they do nothing. They sit with her for a while, absorbing the fact that she is no longer there. Then they move into the quiet, loving activities that humans have done for their dead since time immemorial, bathing her, dressing her, and laying her out. They have researched how to wrap her upper body with techni-ice to keep the body cool and slow decomposition. They know that dead bodies are not dangerous – in fact living bodies are far more so. They clear away all the medical equipment and fill the room with candles, flowers, and soft music.
They notify friends and family, who begin to arrive to pay their last respects. They family keeps Grandmother at home for three days, during which time they can grieve with her in private, and honor the the memories of the life lived by the woman they love. Witnessing the natural changes of her body allows them to fully realize and accept that she is gone. After three days they place Grandmother in a willow casket, and drive her to a nearby natural burial cemetery, where they participate in a moving grave-side ceremony, and help fill the grave. The family mourns their beloved grandmother, but walk away feeling moved, empowered, and reverent. The fees are manageable, totaling around $4,000 for the paperwork and the natural cemetery plot and interment.
This website aims to empower and educate families and communities (especially in SE Wisconsin) so we can care for our own dead, if we so choose.