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.
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.
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.