Just as midwives exist to help with birth at home, midwives also exist to help with caring for the dead at home. Merilynne Rush is a skilled midwife in both rhelms. As a Home Funeral Guide, she educates those interested in caring for their own dead loved ones.
credit for painting goes to Collin McRae
In her own words: "I want to help people care for their own loved one during this time if that is right for them and what they desire. Just as I believe that birth can take place in the home and be an intimate family experience, I believe that home visitation or home funeral can be the best way for individuals or families to engage in the process of caring for and saying good-bye to their loved one."
On the "More Info" page of Merilynne's site, she addresses frequent questions concerning caring for a body of a loved one, including legal questions. Matt and I are hoping to bring Merilynne up for a workshop some day and thus raise awareness in Northern Michigan that you can have a home funeral. I was honored to speak via phone with Merilynne recently and wish to share a few of the questions I asked her:
How do you begin the overwhelming task of caring for the dead?
It is very important to educate yourself and plan ahead. If you don't know your options and have family support, it is very difficult to have a home funeral.
How have you prepared yourself for this service?
I have taken a training with a very experienced Home Funeral Guide and networked with other "death midwives" all over the country. I have also learned most of what I know from the families I have had the privilege to attend.
What is the greatest lesson you've learned in caring for the dead?
We are all individual and no one type of funeral is suitable for everyone. When families are given permission and support, they have amazing strength to discover how to do it themselves in a way that is very meaningful and healing for them.
Do I have to belong to a specific religion to have my beliefs honored in death?
Absolutely not. The beauty of being at home is that you are surrounded by your own support system and can do what is important for you and your family at this very special time.
What is the simplest way I can make a funeral "green"?
Do not embalm (requires home funeral if visitation is desired). Do not cremate (uses incredible amount of fossil fuel). Find a cemetery that will allow burial without cement vault, or certify your own family cemetery.
How do I know if my desires are legal?
Do the research. There's so many misconceptions about this. A conventional funeral director won't know all the answers.
What can I do to help my family plan to care for my body after death?
Tell them what you want, have a family meeting, be informed, plan ahead. This is what I help families do. It's really quire simple, and inexpensive, and I believe, healthy for us all. But it requires an openness to old/new ways.