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Advice on Successful Home Funerals

Written by Jon Sindell

It may sound bizarre but home funerals can be a wonderful way to say goodbye to loved ones.

"Our society is all about fast: fast food, fast living, even fast death." So says Jerri Lyons, a Northern California minister who is trying to take death out of the hands of the funeral industry and put it back into the loving hands of family and friends.

Lyons notes that most Americans at the turn of the Twentieth Century died at home and were mourned at home. The term "funeral parlor" derives from the fact that the dead were laid-out in the parlor of the family home before death became big business. Lyons feels that most mortuaries offer up quickie rituals that deprive mourners of the time they need to properly grieve.

Some things to think about before death comes knocking:
Planning the details of your own funeral can reduce the burden on your loved ones when your time comes.
Appoint an agent to carry out your memorial plans to prevent family disagreements.
The educational Natural Death Care Project offers a wealth of information about conducting a home funeral.
Researching matters pertaining to legalities, paperwork, and the transportation of the body prepares you to act when your loved one dies.
Midlife orphan
Mourning Advice
The Case for Quiet
Traditional funerals deprive families of a good deal of money, too on the order of $5,000 for a no-frills funeral with burial, not including the cemetery plot. In contrast, says Lyons, a home funeral with cremation typically costs from $250 to $700, or from $1,500 to $3,500 for a home funeral with burial, including a plot.

The Home Funeral Ministry, operated by Lyons and fellow minister Janelle Va Melvin, guides families in taking a hands-on approach to the death of their loved ones. During a home funeral, the body is preserved by discreetly-hidden dry ice, and displayed in an open casket. Home mourners often choose to build the casket themselves, and to decorate it in a manner celebrating the spirit of their loved one.

They may dress the deceased in a celebratory manner, too, as in the case of one set of siblings who dressed their father, a devoted hiker, in his favorite hiking clothes before bearing his casket to a beautiful wooded spot. "His last hiking trip, up to Heaven," Lyons notes with approval.

The leisurely two- to three-day pace of a home funeral affords mourners the time they need to experience a wide range of emotions. They laugh, they cry, they make music, they trade stories about the departed, and they speak to her one last time without feeling rushed.

Lyons believes that all of the handling of the body that goes with a home funeral helps mourners overcome their fear of death, a point which children instinctively grasp. She tells of one ceremony where children innocently ran their fingers through a woman's ashen remains, commenting on its sandlike texture and filling plastic bags with ashes to scatter as the adult mourners stood reluctantly by.

Lyons sums it all up this way: "There is nothing like being in the presence of someone when they die. It is the experience of love in a most profound way."


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