What is a home funeral?

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Home funerals are not new. Think of an Irish wake, where, for three days, family and friends gather round a loved one’s body at home, grieving together and honoring their loved one’s life.

In all but eight states, it is legal and possible for you to care for your own dead at home, without hiring a funeral director. Yet most people have no idea this option exists. At A Sacred Moment, we support families and communities to reclaim their innate right to provide after-death care, if they so choose.

In a home funeral vigil, a deceased person remains at home, or is brought to a home or vigil space instead of to a funeral home. Time varies--from a few hours to a few days. (Three days is an accepted timespan in many cultures and spiritual traditions.) It is legal to keep a body at home, as long as it is “refrigerated” after 24 hours. In the state of Washington, the use of dry ice is accepted as refrigeration (See Washington State Laws: http://apps.leg.wa.gov/WAC/default.aspx?cite=246-500-010 and http://apps.leg.wa.gov/WAC/default.aspx?cite=246-500-030).

Blocks of dry ice are placed beneath or near the body and are replenished each day. No embalming is necessary. Windows are cracked to accommodate the dry ice emissions and to let in fresh air.

You can bathe, dress, and care for your loved one in the privacy of familiar surroundings. You can create a special space around the deceased, where people can gather, and where prayers or spiritual practices can take place if that is part of your traditions. The body might rest on a bed, sofa, or massage table, with draped blankets and pillows underneath. You can bring candles, flowers, and photographs to add life and beauty to the room.

Others may want to build a simple casket or decorate a fiberboard one with messages and drawings. (This is a great activity for children.) Everyone can find ways to engage, feel helpful and connected, and say goodbye in creative, healing, and meaningful ways.

At the end of the home funeral vigil, the deceased is transported to a cemetery or crematorium. (Families may transport if they have a burial transport permit, or A Sacred Moment can provide that service.) It is possible to have a conventional or green burial, or a witnessed cremation and continue sharing and praying during the disposition, as a final act of closure.