RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Death is as natural as the changing of the seasons, which is probably why Halloween and similar ghostly festivals coincide with the season of falling leaves and fading daylight. But in modern times we've become so far removed from it that the idea of being in the same room with a dead body sends shivers up some of our spines. These days, a funeral home steps into the picture shortly after a loved one dies and handles the body straight through the burial process. But it wasn't that long ago that home funerals and wakes were the norm. In fact, your great-grandparents most likely celebrated the lives of late loved ones in a more intimate, less invasive, and less toxic setting. A "green funeral," as this approach sometimes called, not only takes less of a toll on the environment, it can also feel more meaningful and personal to those involved. And as a side benefit, it may cost thousands less than a conventional funeral.
"People I've spoken to have talked about the opportunity that a home funeral afforded them to spend plenty of quiet, private time with the deceased in a comfortable, familiar setting and on their own schedules, something not possible at a funeral home," says Mark Harris, author of Grave Matters: A Journey Through the Modern Funeral Industry to a Natural Way of Burial (Scribner, 2008). "It also allows families to care for their departed with love and affection, just as they had with the deceased in life and, perhaps, in their decline." That more intense, direct engagement with the deceased can help family members cope with their loss, says Harris. "As one woman who held a home funeral for her 7-year-old daughter put it to me, 'When you allow the funeral director to whisk away a body, you miss out on the comfort and healing that comes from physically caring for the dead.'"
Published on: October 20, 2009
Updated on: March 11, 2010