Advice to someone who wants to do a home funeral

Dear Paul,

Thank you for contacting me; it was a blessing to speak with you yesterday. I consider the work I do informing families about natural death care to be a ministry and I thank you for giving me the opportunity to help you.
The plan for your mother that you have outlined to me is very lovely and do-able, and will be a dear way to honor your mother and her passing.
Your mother is at home in hospice care – this means that when she passes, the hospice nurse will come to the home. S/he “pronounces” the death and initiates the paperwork (death certificate), which will be sent to the chosen funeral director. S/he calls the funeral director and tells them that you will be contacting them when you are ready for them to come to the home in a day or two and help you go to the church for the mass. From there they will proceed to the cremation. The ashes will be returned to you a few days later.
This arrangement allows you to lovingly care for your mother’s body at home, including cleaning, dressing, “laying out” and cooling with dry ice, and visitation with family and close friends. This time in the privacy of your home is a very sacred and special time during which people typically pray, visit, relate stories and memories, share food and fellowship and grieve together. After this time, the circle is widened as you move to the church for the larger funeral and visitation with the open casket.
There are several things I recommend you do or think about ahead of time. We mentioned several of these and I have added a few others.
  1. Discuss your plans with close family and caregivers. This allows them time to ask questions and volunteer to help you. You will need help to do all this at home.
  2. Contact the funeral director you know and tell him what you’d like to do:
    1. That your mother is at home in hospice care and you’d like to care for her body there for a few days before having a funeral mass and cremation. He will want to be sure you know how to properly cool her body. He will probably put a 48-hour time limit on it – don’t worry about this at this point
    2. He may be able to help you figure out the payment contract you have through Neptune Society and work with that
    3. I would count on additional charges for the transport to the church, the obituary, the consultation and other paperwork
  3. Decide what type of casket you would like to have for the open casket viewing in the church. The funeral director should be able to provide a very nice “cremation casket,” which you can decorate or make to look nice, or you may want to purchase something on-line. This is something we didn’t talk about and I could go over with you in a family consultation. You probably don’t want to purchase something through the funeral home which would cost a lot of money.
  4. Discuss your plans with the hospice nurse or chaplain and elicit their support
  5. Contact the church as see if they will have any concerns with an open casket of an un-embalmed body. In the past, I have spoken with church personnel who have wanted education and reassurance.
At any point, please don’t hesitate to contact me again with questions. Please give out my contact info to anyone else who would like more information. As you can see, even though what you want to do is very straightforward and simple, it gets more complicated when you have to involve and educate other people, especially those who are accustomed to doing things another way. They may have concerns and it may feel that they are putting up roadblocks, but I assure you this is all very do-able. I am here to help you with this. I have confirmed that the funeral home I know would be able to help you if yours doesn’t work out.
In order for me to be able to continue this ministry, I ask that you consider making a payment for my consultation. As we discussed, I ask $100 for a family consultation and $400 if I come to the home after the death to continue to guide you through the process of caring for the body. However, I accept whatever you feel you can pay.
Bless you in this journey,
Merilynne

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