So…What Sorta Funeral Do YOU Want?

Here’s something I couldn’t imagine arising–as an idea–from anywhere other than California. And I know some people might go “Oh! Those wacky new-age Californians!” but frankly I think this is a fantastic idea:

Sacred Crossings home funerals.

I love this idea because I’ve always been the sort to think about what kind of funeral I’d want (wake, partying, rockin’ music, lots of food, plenty of Glenfidditch). I don’t dwell on it. I’m not morbid. I just think dying is an important part of living.

Home funerals are a fascinating idea, and frankly, even more fascinating as a concept simply because we Americans have gotten so unused to dealing with death as a natural element of life, that this whole notion of a home funeral has become remarkable.

(more behind the jump)

I met Olivia Bareham, co-founder of Sacred Crossings, at breakfast this morning. I’ve not met anyone whose personal gravitas was so soothing–and with her English accent, chatting with her was oddly calming. She and her partner work with families before, during and after the death of their loved one. If the person dying is conscious and able to help with planning, they get to decide what sort of funeral they’d like to have, how they want the room to look, everything (for example, one woman had been a flamenco dancer in her heyday, and, per her request, during her last days and then after, they’d decorated her whole room with her beautiful flamenco shawls). It’s legal to keep the body in your house (except in Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, Nebraska and New York), and they do just that for three days, under controlled environmental conditions, while the family and friends can assemble, mourn, share memories, etc. “By the third day, people are beginning to move on; they’re back in the kitchen cooking dinner, they’ve made their peace,” said Bareham. A cardboard cremation “casket” (just a heavy-duty cardboard container for the body, used in cremations) is decorated with photos and art supplies by the family–even the kids get to draw or write on it–and the body is transferred into it, and then is either interred or cremated–whichever method they and their family chose. The whole family gets some sort of closure, gets to fully experience the death, and gets a chance to come to peace with the idea–much nicer than strangers coming & carting off your loved one, then filling them full of chemicals and putting makeup on them.

In the immortal words of Weezer, “How cool is that?!”

So…what sort of special things would YOU want at your last rites? I’d want everyone to bring their dogs so I could pet them before I passed on. And carrot cake. I’d want carrot cake in the room as I softly exited this world for the next. But…what music would I choose? Aigh!

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6 Replies to “So…What Sorta Funeral Do YOU Want?”

  1. cool. Much more civilized than funerals held by strangers. Myself, I’ve always wanted to be cremated (haven’t thought about the funeral part) and then have the ashes made into some sort of Modigliani type statue by a sculptor, all curvy, and be put into the garden. I imagine after many years, the statue would start to disintigrate from the sun and rain and I’d be back into the earth.

  2. As a former “stranger coming & carting off your loved one” and seeing how fucked up the death industry is from the inside, I’d suggest everyone take a serious look at these sort of options, or at least some sort of alternative to the funeral home norm. The “embalming” process is particularly gory (eg. they cut your calves to drain out the blood) and needless, you’re going to decompose anyways, why add on extra charges? Cuz the death-merchants claim it’s necessary for “health reasons”. The modern funeral practice replaced previous traditions where people used to wash and dress their loved ones at home, and display them in the parlor (that part of the home that is now known as the “living room”, thank you Better Homes and Gardens!) maybe even take a picture. But as all things, business finds a way to transform human culture into an economic act, and the big corporate player in the death industry nowadays is SCI, they control much of the places you think are just small local funeral homes, when in fact they’ve consolidated most services and process bodies in centralized locations. If you check out their page, you’ll find a nice stock ticker to see how well they are doing, how appropriate! sci-corp.com

  3. It’s interesting to hear you say that, El Chavo, because Bareham did mention that historically the front room of the house, the parlor, was often used as a place for bodies to be held previous to burial–it usually being the coldest room in the house, back when they MADE houses with “parlors”–and that when the shift began to move funerals out of the home to business-model “funeral parlors” (notice the appropriation of the terminology), they decided the name of that room in our houses should be changed–to something that didn’t have anything to do with yukky, icky, disagreeable death. Like, say, “living room.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Living_room

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