20 people from MD as well as NH, MT, WI and PA joined us for Threshold Support Circle’s 1st Virtual Death Café on May 2. Conversations in the 5 Zoom breakout rooms were rich and varied, with several participants sharing resources.
We learned about an upcoming book by JH Bloomberg School of Public Health adjunct professor Dan Morhaim, MD. Preparing for a Better End: Expert Lessons on Death and Dying, can be preordered on Amazon.
And the workbook ReSurfacing: Techniques for Exploring Consciousness by Harry Palmer is the source for the “Releasing Fixed Attention” exercise for times when we get stuck in anxiety and fear, especially during the pandemic. This workbook can be found at avatarbookstore.com/resurfacing.
How the at-home death movement can provide a dignified, personal, and meaningful send-off (whether we’re Buddhists or not).
The last time death rites became a matter of national interest was in the 1960s, when journalist and civil rights activist Jessica Mitford dealt a heavy blow to the unscrupulous, multibillion-dollar funeral industry. Since then, there has been a steady pulse of distress over the idea of allowing businesses to dictate how we care for our dead. Today’s undertakers may no longer be charlatans trying to upsell fancy caskets, but as a service industry, it has failed to meet the emotional and spiritual needs of a graying demographic.
One of the most influential voices for reform is Amy Cunningham, who is working to bring dignity, reverence, and intimacy back to the end-of-life experience. Cunningham, who was lauded by The New York Times for her back-to-basics, family-centered approach, is a New York State-licensed funeral director and death educator trained in overseeing at-home funerals. Coming off the coattails of a 35-year editorial career, she’s emerged as an earnest advocate for making memorial services more hands-on, personal, affordable, and sustainable.
Tricycle recently cozied up with Cunningham at Green-Wood Cemetery’s historic crematory chapel in Brooklyn to discuss her latest pioneering endeavor, the New American Buddhist Funeral, and how methods and attitudes toward end-of-life disposal should honor faith-based principles, which will lead to more meaningful send-offs.
There is a faint but growing movement in the U.S. to reclaim the home funeral. What have we lost in the dying process that leads more people to seek at-home services?
We’ve allowed death and the whole dying process to become a medical event. In our communal sadness, we’ve become very insecure in hospital settings and often forget to think of our own wishes and demands, letting ourselves be buffeted about by hospital policies or funeral home pronouncements. Before we’re even cognizant of it, we find ourselves moving mindlessly along the conveyer belt that is the $14 billion funeral and death care industry.
Read the article here: https://tricycle.org/trikedaily/creating-new-american-buddhist-funeral/
About 120 people from 3 countries gathered last weekend near Baltimore, Maryland for the National Home Funeral Alliance Conference. The conference was both inspiring and practical, a wonderful chance to learn from experts and network with other Home Funeral Guides and progressive Funeral Directors. Friendships were strengthened and new friends were made as we continue to support one another in this movement!
TSC played a vital role as the ‘boots on the ground’ team to support many of the logistics for the conference. We created a community altar, a Before I Die chalkboard wall so participants could record their wishes, stuffed the official NHFA swag bags with promotional materials, coordinated registration, recruited vendors, and opened and closed each day with centering exercises as well as evening storytelling around the bonfire. In addition, we facilitated a session on Starting a Threshold Group!
The expert panels included 3 religious leaders sharing Jewish, Buddhist and Muslim perspectives on after death care; advocacy advice from the Institute for Justice, Director of the Funeral Consumer’s Alliance Josh Slocum, and a legal historian of funeral care; a panel on building bridges to hospices and hospitals; and a panel focusing on working with authorities including the Director of the MD Mortuary Board and the Medical Examiner’s Office.
Skills sessions included Body Care, Creating Memorial Ceremonies, Pet Home Funerals, Self Care, Home Funeral Storytelling , and Starting a Threshold Support Group.
In addition, 3 films were screened: “In the Parlor” by Home Funeral Guide Heidi Boucher, “Zen and the Art of Dying” a documentary about the Australian deathwalker Zenith Virago, and “The Art of Natural Death Care” by Katelyn La Grega. Heidi and Zenith were present at the conference and offered a question and answer session together.
Join the now over 1,400 NHFA members in this movement. Membership is free! www.homefuneralalliance.org