No One Dies Alone

Recently, I rediscovered and was newly inspired by this NPR article about an Austin hospital system’s initiative to ensure that no one dies alone.

 

 

In all the practical considerations that we focus on around dying and deathcare–in helping mainly the families address costs and arrangements and options for disposal–it’s sometimes easy to lose sight of the experience of the dying person.

I’m always thankful that there are those in the death and dying community who are called to this part of the process, who take on the task of ensuring that no one dies alone.

 

 

 

Look What I Saw!

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I’ve had a fascination with the Titanic since grade school (shortly after it went down, children…)

I might have mentioned that a time or two on this blog.

 

The family went to NYC to celebrate girl child’s senior trip, and I made it a point to go visit this memorial to Ida and Isidor Strauss, the Macy’s owners who perished on the Titanic.   It was very unassuming, and also very cool!   I imagine millions of folks walk by it every year, and never even read it.

Things like this really make me reconsider my  leave no trace philosophy for my own deathcare.   I’m not sure just how, but perhaps something?

Stay tuned….

At Home, Where She Belongs

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From “It Was As If“,  photo by Taylor MacIntosh

 

I want you to go and read this amazing account of a woman’s death and home funeral.

If there’s ever any doubt in your mind that there is a better, more harmonious, gentle way to die and be buried, you need to read the end of life and deathcare experience in “It Was As If”.

Because this was a home funeral, her body was attended to immediately by her husband, her oldest and best friend, another friend who has assisted with about twenty home funerals, and me, one of her more recent friends.  We represented decades of friendship and love. The first basin of warm water contained lavender and tea tree oil, which served as a natural disinfectant.  This was used to cleanse her body and keep her free of bacteria.  The second basin of warm water contained rose oil and fresh rose petals. We women took turns gently holding each part of her body and carefully washing her every inch.  We washed her silver hair and tousled the curls just as she always wore it…. Finally, using her favorite body lotion we helped each other rub it in so her skin was soft and smooth.  And then, with only a bit of hesitation, her husband reached for the lotion with his work-worn hands and slowly caressed the lotion into his wife’s skin, taking his time but lingering only as long as it seemed his heart would allow. This would be his last intimate touch of a body that was so familiar to him. A touch he will probably never forget – a touch that forces an onlooker to bow her head and look away.

 

That’s how this love story manifests itself: a man caring for his wife’s body at home where she belongs.  It is one of the most beautiful things I have ever witnessed.

At home, where she belongs.   Where we all belong.  Not drained and stuffed and made up to look “lifelike”, with mouth wired shut and eye caps in.

Loved.  Caressed.  Celebrated. Cared for in death by those who cared for us in life.

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I was a volunteer corpse once, for a home funeral workshop.

Each person at the event was there for a reason, one with a name–each came (many, from hundreds of miles) because her mom, or his grandpa was growing frail, and they yearned to be taught a better way to care for their loved one.   The topic was clearly emotional for many, but there was, mixed with the emotion, a sense of empowerment, of ownership and control being granted to the families with the permission and knowledge of how to care for their own loved ones.

And even though my fellow attendees were all strangers to me, as they pretended to wash my body and tended to my deathcare, I felt the most overwhelming sense of love and caring from them.

Just as the author above felt, as she observed and participated in her friend’s home funeral.

 

There is a better way.  At home, where you belonged.  And belong.

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Curious about home funerals?   Maybe want to consider one for yourself, or for a loved one?

If you’re in Austin, we have two internationally known home funeral guides, Sandy Booth & Donna Belk, here locally.  They frequently lead workshops and  host a monthly MeetUp, as well as assist directly with home funerals.    I can’t recommend getting to know them highly enough–they’re amazing women with a passion for empowering and teaching!

The American-Statesman did a photo blog from one of their workshops, if you’re curious about Sandy and Donna, why they do what they do, and what a workshop entails.

There are also several home-funeral-friendly morticians in town, if you’d rather have some professional paid help–I can help hook you up with one, if your needs are Austin-based.

 

If you’re not in Austin, there are so many other good resources nationally and globally, too many to detail here.  Message me–we can talk specifics, and get you started exploring and planning your own home deathcare.

 

Got a group? Need a speaker?

This was how I spent last Saturday morning, talking to a men’s fellowship group at a local church.

 

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They gather once a month for breakfast and conversation, and this month invited me in to do a presentation for them.

AND WE HAD THE BEST TIME TALKING ABOUT DEATH!   (Surprised?!)

Several of the men said they were amazed at how much fun it was, and how everyone was so engaged, seeing as we were talking about death.  But I find that over and over again–once we break open the taboos around talking about death, everyone wants to talk.

Everyone has their stories, their wishes, the disasters they’ve been through, and their ‘now that I know’ tales.  Most everyone has a definite opinion on how they want to go out, even if they’ve never talked about it with anyone else.

Stories and wants are great, but driving actual planning and sharing hard facts are why I’m there. So I do just that..

And, to a person, their jaws drop open when I share the FCA-CTX Funeral Home Price Survey with them.

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It’s one thing to know what you want.  It’s a whole different ballgame to see how the same funeral can vary by thousands of dollars, just because you called one funeral home instead of another.  To overpay by thousands when a simple burial balloons into a full-boat funeral as the gathered family adds on features. Or worse, to end up with siblings not speaking to each other over decisions made.

And that’s why I do what I do.  That’s why these conversations are so essential, to prepare and protect you and your loved one.

 

Not everyone knows the laws, that funeral homes have to give you price lists if you ask, that you can bring your own casket or urn.

Or that there’s no state or federal law requiring embalming, even for a viewing (and ZERO compelling health or safety reason to do so).

Or that it’s legal to care for own dead at home.  That we live close to one of the premiere natural burial grounds–and that we in Austin have both internationally known guides AND home funeral/green burial friendly funeral directors who can help you through the whole green burial process.

But I do.  And I want to share it with you, all of it, while we laugh and talk.

Do you have a community group who needs an engaging and fun discussion about deathcare options?  Maybe you just want to plan a happy hour with friends, for Drinks and Death?

Let’s talk!

 

Trouble for Death with Dignity?

On Tuesday night, President Trump announced his nominee for the US Supreme Court vacancy, a seemingly well-qualified and respected judge named Neil Gorsuch.

NOTE: This blog will not get partisan, and will in general leave political analysis, opinions, and predictions about Judge Gorsuch and his path to confirmation to other more qualified and topical outlets.

 

But it’s with sadness that I have to share that Americans, and our rights regarding the Right to Die, are definitely at risk if Judge Gorsuch is confirmed.

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Judge Gorsuch is the author of the above, The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia, a 2009 publication in which he argues against the practice from both a moral and legal standpoint.

From the opening pages of his book:

It is an argument premised on the idea that all human beings are intrinsically valuable and the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong

And from the publisher’s website:

Gorsuch builds a nuanced, novel, and powerful moral and legal argument against legalization, one based on a principle that, surprisingly, has largely been overlooked in the debate–the idea that human life is intrinsically valuable and that intentional killing is always wrong. At the same time, the argument Gorsuch develops leaves wide latitude for individual patient autonomy and the refusal of unwanted medical treatment and life-sustaining care, permitting intervention only in cases where an intention to kill is present.

It appears, if Judge Gorsuch is confirmed, that our Death with Dignity advocates will have their work cut out for them.  I can only hope that the reported “wide latitude for individual patient autonomy” does indeed exist, and guides his thinking in deciding case law about this human right.

New Planning for a New Year

So, how are your New Year’s resolutions coming?

Didn’t make any?  There’s still time!   Want a clue to one that is guaranteed sweat-free, can be done sitting down with your fuzzy socks on, and won’t make you have to eat kale?

Get your funeral plans in order. 

There!  It’s just that simple.  A goal you can accomplish this weekend over coffee or while watching the football playoffs.

 

It’s super easy to do yourself–and for easy, free guidance, start here, with the Funeral Consumers Alliance Four-Step Funeral Planning guide.

 

Are you a technophile? Avoiding the issue because you’d rather play on your phone? Maybe you need a website or app to walk you through your options:

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Or perhaps you really need someone to force you to do it–a little boot-camp style funeral planning?

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I do that–in person, by Skype, or by email.

Click above, call me at (512)763-7185 or email me, and let’s get started!

Announcing our NEW site!

We’ve recently released our new branding and a fresh new website to go along with it!

Service offerings and information previously offered at MarileeParsons.com can now be found at LaterYall.com.

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This new name and logo allows us to flaunt our local focus (just check out that Lone Star!).

I love the touch of whimsy and the friendly Texas accent it brings to a topic typically described as creepy, or morbid, or maybe just ewwwwww.

Come take a tour!  I hope you’ll like the changes, and would love to hear from you.

Later, y’all!