Care at Home after Death
By Joan P.
Dennis and I had been interested in green burial since 2009 when an NPR program featured Mark Harris. I immediately read Harris’s book Grave Matters. We valued the concept of reduce, reuse, recycle and had an energy efficient home with alternative energy sources. Deciding to have our final arrangements include being buried in a green cemetery was a no-brainer. I joined efforts to establish a green cemetery that anyone in Massachusetts could use. I attended a workshop on home funerals taught by Peg Lorenz of Peaceful Passage at Home. Peg said, “You are not ready to do this work until you purchase the necessary supplies to prepare the body for burial.” So I did what she suggested (the Techni-ice™ for cooling the body was the only item I didn’t have on hand) and I was ready to share my knowledge and passion and help other families care for their relative who died at home.
Dennis could not wait for a green cemetery in Massachusetts. Dennis was ill for a while but only in the last three months did he suffer significant pain. He decided to request hospice care and within days he died. This is when all of my research came in handy. I remembered the first things Peg Lorenz said to do after a loved one dies at home: slow down, take a deep breath, clear the space of medical supplies, and delegate jobs. Dennis was at peace, his room was beautiful, and I was ready with my action plan. I called my friend Carol Coan who with Judith Lorei co-founded efforts to establish a green cemetery in Massachusetts. My next call was to Joyce Foley at Cedar Brook Burial Ground in Limington, Maine. Going to Maine made perfect sense since Dennis had deep Maine roots. Joyce was positive, helpful, and we made arrangements to have Dennis buried the next day at Cedar Brook Burial Ground.
When we told our children about our plans for a green burial in 2009 they said, “Sure, mom, do what you want.” When I explained I wanted to do this they said, “Let’s make it happen.” They arranged for the purchase of a coffin and a vehicle to transport Dennis to Maine. They took the hospice nurse’s Pronouncement of Death document to our physician and picked up the Death Certificate. Carol helped me complete the demographic portion. I notified our town clerk of my plan to care for Dennis at home and that I would be the person responsible for the arrangements. I sent her references from Joshua Slocum’s book, Final Rights, with regulations regarding caring for your own dead in Massachusetts. She found this very helpful as she had never prepared a death certificate for a family member managing arrangements after a death.
On a sunny February morning, a little caravan of family and friends travelled to Cedar Brook Burial Ground and lovingly placed Dennis in the ground facing the sun. We shared stories and said our goodbyes. My children and I can’t imagine caring for Dennis any other way. It was beautiful, simple, and satisfying to have our beloved husband and father at home with us and then transport his remains to Maine as we grieved his death and celebrated our family’s love together.