The FCA Biennial Conference Wrap

Last week, I was lucky enough to be able to attend the Funeral Consumers Alliance biennial Conference in Atlanta, Georgia.  

 

The FCA, in case you’re new to this blog, is a grassroots consumer protection group which advocates at a national and state level for individual and consumer rights in the end of life and deathcare industries.   

 

Like all businesses, the funeral service industry has strong incentive to advocate for favorable conditions and laws which would increase their markets and profits, including employing lobbyists and working for legislative and regulatory board presence at local, state, and national levels.   As most Americans (and safely, most humans) tend to avoid thinking about or engaging with the funeral industry until absolutely required, the day-to-day behind-the-curtain workings (shenanigans?) are usually far from awareness, and really only surface when a regulation or practice restricts or causes extra expense for individual consumers–at which point it is far too late.

The FCA, both at a national and local affiliate level, is always watching, however, and working tirelessly on a shoestring to fight the fights you don’t know are even necessary, to proactively protect you, your freedoms, and your pocketbook.

(Disclosure: I am a member of the FCA–national and Austin chapter–and more importantly, fully support and believe in their mission!)

 

The FCA convention, then was a chance to put faces to names, and meet the folks whose work I’ve admired for years–and it was a blast!.

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I was squeeing like a fangirl when I got to meet Katrina Spade, founder of the Urban Death Project, the one leading the charge to develop city-based sites that will allow for human body composting (a process she’s christened “recomposition”).

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We also had the chance to learn:

  • how the US has arrived at the point where a dead body is the property of the family
  • how to canvass and assemble the funeral home and cemetery price surveys that are truly one of the most essential functions of the FCA affiliate branches
  • how to perform a home funeral, as well as delve into the cultural and consumer implications of modern funeral and deathcare behaviors, and
  • how legal structures affect both end of life and deathcare decisionmaking, especially regarding appointment of agent and POLST forms.

among many other informative talks and sharing sessions.
The Funeral Consumers Alliance does incredibly important work, in both advocacy and information-sharing.   Without them, I am confident that even more folks would be taken advantage of and put at a disadvantage when having to make funeral arrangements–we really need what they do!

If you ever need guidance on funeral and deathcare, check them out.   And consider joining your local chapter–it helps fund their work!

I definitely will be at the next FCA Conference in 2018.  Wanna go with?

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Deathcare Cautions from Orlando

Shortly after Omar Mateen started, and police ended, his deadly rampage in the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, the work of making arrangements for the victims would have started.

Forty nine people–mostly men, mostly gay–were killed, along with the perpetrator.  Like other deaths (en masse or singular), after the death, the next of kin would be identified, and decisions about body care and disposition start.

Unlike other deaths, though, there could be landmines waiting for the Pulse victims, familial issues complicating the decisions, especially if the family wasn’t fully accepting of their loved one’s sexuality or relationships.

As we try to absorb these details, it’s hard not to wonder what will happen next to the victims. Did they have relationships with their families? Who will receive their remains, and how will their lives together be honored? These questions may be deeply personal, but for queer couples who have faced violence and tragedy, they’ve also been inevitable and inescapable for decades. These concerns, in part, helped gestate the push for marriage equality, especially during the height of the AIDS crisis, when many families opted to mask sexuality and long-term relationships. The legal status of the Orlando couples isn’t clear. But while mourning is always unimaginable and complicated, for many of these victims, there will be yet more indignities—as if their murders weren’t enough.  From Slate

 

Any couple not legally married, or any single person with a troubled relationship with their parents (for whatever reason) is at risk for the same kind of indignity and chaos.   Legally, your next of kin have responsibility for carrying out your deathcare–but what if they aren’t religious, and you were?   Or of different faiths?

Or worse, the ones making the decisions don’t accept the deceased’s sexuality or gender status–which could lead and has led to significant others and/or life partners being banned from funerals, and transgender people being presented as the wrong gender during funeral/burial.

 

Thankfully, at least in the case of one couple who both perished in the Orlando shooting, their families are ensuring that their funerals join them as the marriage they didn’t get to have.

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Image from Slate.com

Juan Guerrero and Drew Leinonen, a couple for 2 years before they were killed, were buried together by their families.

…(A)fter both their deaths were confirmed, the families said they planned to hold their funerals together to celebrate the life they might have shared. “If it’s not a funeral, they were going to have a wedding together,” Aryam Guerrero said.

“I think my son wanted to do that,” the elder Juan Guerrero, 61, added. “That’s why. I don’t care what the people think. I don’t care.”

A bittersweet ending to an awful event.

 

Do you have reason to worry that the choices made for funeral and deathcare won’t respect and honor who you were?  Does thinking about who will serve as your next of kin stress you out?

There are easy, simple solutions to the problem, but they have to be done ahead of time!   Want to know more?    Contact me, and let’s talk about it.

Some Love for Funeral Directors

If you read much about the modern funeral industry, there are often multiple good reasons to distrust and dislike funeral directors.  And, indeed, there are some shady and slimy funeral directors and companies who earn the reputation outright and smear the honor of the profession.

But there are also many good, honest, caring people who choose to become funeral directors as well.   Ones whom  you could trust to shoot you straight and lovingly care for your deceased.

 

Recently, a few stories about the good guys have sprung up in my feeds, and I wanted to share them with you.

 

 

 

(And what this post isn’t telling you is that this funeral director also donated $2500 in reward money for the apprehension of the hit-and-run driver)

 

Need a referral to a good, trustworthy funeral director?  I can help!

DeathWalking Down Under

I recently was given the amazing gift of spending a few hours with Zenith Verago, an Australian funeral celebrant and death walker.   I was deeply inspired by her thoughtful, analytical, holistic understanding of the death and dying process, and a helper’s role through all of it.

Zen has spent decades developing a mindful, well-constructed flow for performing as a Death Walker (her term for someone who facilitates the end of life/death/funeral process both with the dying person and their loved ones).  She shared a bit about her understandings of natural deathcare (the process from pre-death through bereavement, brought back to families rather than done by industry), and how fear of dying can be minimized.  She also graciously gave our small group a glimpse of the emotional path she leads participants on during funeral services–it was clear how thoughtfully her work has been constructed. and how powerful her bold, warm, genuine presence must be, for both the dying and the families.

Zenith views the death and dying process as a journey, one she walks together with the dying and the remaining, helping by her unique attention to work through fears and bring peace and release to the path for everyone.

Recently, a pair of filmmakers spent a month or so with Zenith, recording her work.  The resulting film, Zen & The Art of Dying, has been shown at SXSW, and is due for wider release this fall.

I can’t wait to watch!

For more information, check out the film’s website:  Zen and the Art of Dying

 

 

 

What Else We Leave Behind

We’re pretty focused, here, on planning for your physical end of life here–on getting your funeral arrangements and final wishes all spelled out.  And occasionally, I nag you to get your legal house in order as well, to make sure the ones you leave behind have as simple a path as possible.

But increasingly, as we get the IRL stuff in order, we become aware of the need to be thinking about digital end of life as well, and what will become of the online world we’ve participated in and created.

This video from the BBC is certainly worth a watch, to spark those thoughts.

 

Definitely some things to consider, if you’re one who is active online (although the whole animated robot might be a bridge too far for me…)