Last Updated ( Friday, 01 May 2009 13:31 )
Author Max Alexander has written a moving account of the family-directed funeral of his father-in-law, contrasting it with the conventional and costly mortuary affair for his own father. Here's a sampling from the March, 2009 article in Smithsonian Magazine:
One was buried, one was cremated. One was embalmed, one wasn't. One had a typical American funeral-home cotillion; one was laid out at home in a homemade coffin. I could tell you that sorting out the details of these two dead fathers taught me a lot about life, which is true. But what I really want to share is that dead bodies are perfectly OK to be around, for a while.
I suppose people whose loved ones are missing in action or lost at sea might envy the rest of us, for whom death typically leaves a corpse, or in the polite language of funeral directors, "the remains." Yet for all our desire to possess this tangible evidence of a life once lived, we've become oddly squeamish about our dead. We pay an average of $6,500 for a funeral, not including cemetery costs, in part so we don't have to deal with the physical reality of death. That's 13 percent of the median American family's annual income.
Last Updated ( Monday, 25 January 2010 21:04 )
2/15/2009 - FCA volunteer Holly Stevens has completed work on a comprehensive guide to caring for one's own dead, with the help of activists and volunteers from around the country. Here's her press release:
I am pleased to announce that after six months of diligence and hard work by a truly talented nationwide group of home funeral advocates, our manual and study guide to home funeral committees is now published and available!
Undertaken with Love: A Home Funeral Guide for Congregations and Communities is intended for:
* Congregational committees that form to support home funerals for their members
* Pastors and other spiritual leaders contemplating a home funeral ministry
* Secular social groups that form to support home funerals for their members
* The families themselves
Last Updated ( Thursday, 26 March 2009 17:04 )
3/25/2009 UPDATE - HB 265 has been signed into law by the Utah governor!
2/15/2009 - Joyce Mitchell called us crying with happiness today; after tireless organizing, lobbying, and testifying, this one-woman powerhouse got a bill passed in the Utah House to restore citizens' rights to care for their own dead.
"I can't believe it," Mitchell said by cell-phone after the vote, laughing and sniffling at the same time. "If it weren't for [the national FCA], the FCA Biennial Conference last year, and the FCA email discussion list, I couldn't have done. You all kept up my enthusiasm and broke me out of my apathy."
Actually, Mitchell, the President of the FCA of Utah, is the real heroine. Outraged at a 2006 law that forced Utah citizens to hire funeral homes if they wanted a completed death certificate and custody of the body, Mitchell rounded up families and home funeral activists to testify to the Utah House. David Robles and his wife, Marcia Robles-Racehorse, consumer advocates from the Shoshone-Bannock Tribe in Idaho, were particularly helpful, as were Native American leaders who supported HB 265 . The bill passed the House overwhelmingly, and Mitchell has found a Senate supporter to shepherd the bill through the senate.
Mitchell's success is a testament to what "ordinary" citizens can do when they remember that the government serves the people, not the other way around. Mitchell put up a website dedicated to the issue , gathered families who'd been affected by the 2006 law, and gave Powerpoint presentations on the issue to legislative committees.
Hats off to all of you who went to the mat on this important issue. Your work has restored a fundamental freedom for all Utah families. Special thanks to Rep. Brad Daw, who understood the injustice of depriving families of control over their death rituals, and who was willing to stand up for the right thing.
2/3/2009 - The Montana Legislature has introduced a bill clarifying who has the right to make decisions about funeral arrangements. The trouble is, the bill only lets a citizen make his wishes legally binding through a prepaid funeral contract! Thirty-nine other states have personal preference and designated agent laws
that allow people to put their wishes in writing, and appoint someone to carry them out. Montana should follow suit, instead of relying on the "next-of-kin" devolution; a recipe for disaster in the family courts if relatives can't agree. Click here to read HB 386
. FCA will send a letter of testimony to the House Business and Labor Committee before its February 9, 2009 meeting.
Last Updated ( Friday, 30 January 2009 21:43 )
1/30/2009 - Joshua Slocum, FCA Executive Director
Caring for one's own dead isn't something the majority of families do. Most of us are so distant from the realities of death, we've forgotten that our great grandparents regularly waked the body at home, and an undertaker was a helper, not a funeral director. But in my six years as the executive director of FCA, there's been a surprising resurgence of interest in private, family-directed funerals. Formerly confined to a few hippies (I mean that affectionately) in Northern California, or in the pages of Lisa Carlson's Caring for the Dead, Your Final Act of Love, home funerals are finding new life in volunteer groups and in the mainstream media. In 2004, Public Television aired an hour-long documentary on the topic.
But families in seven states (CT, IN, LA, MI, NE, NY, UT) face legal obstacles. Astonishingly, those states have seen fit to require families to engage a funeral home for everything from filing the death certificate, to transporting the casket, to getting the body released from the hospital. Whether the family wants to hire a funeral director or not, whether they can afford to pay one or not. Click READ MORE for the rest of the story. . .
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