Care at Home After Death

Joan Pillsbury, GBM Board Member

Dennis and I have been interested in green burial since 2009 when an NPR program featured Mark Harris. I immediately read Harris’ book “Grave Matters”. We value the concept of reduce, recycle & reuse and have 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 a reality. I attended a workshop on home funerals taught by Peg Lorenz, 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 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 3 months did he suffer significant pain. He decided to request hospice care and within days he had died. This is when all of my research came in handy. I remembered the first things Peggy 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-founds 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 makes perfect sense since Dennis has 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 what you want”. When I explained I wanted to do this they said, “Let’s make it happen”. They arranged for a purchase of a coffin and a vehicle for transporting 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 to her references from the Joshua Slocum’s book, “Final Rights”, with regulation regarding caring for the dead in Massachusetts. This she found very helpful as she had never prepared a death certificate for a family member caring for arrangements after a death. Note: Massachusetts is in the process of converting to electronic records so the process will change. One of our committee members is communicating with staff at the Bureau of Vital Statistics to understand this process and its effect on the home funeral arrangements.

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 as we grieved his death and celebrated our family’s love together.

dennis pic