Quickie Wednesday

Charles Cowling

Interesting piece from Canada on home funerals in which a ‘death midwife’ (gotta find a better term than that!) acknowledges that funeral directors can, in the right circumstances, do the job as well as her. She’s right, of course. Good funeral directors are not the enemy. Read it

From Pam Vetter’s newsletter, this tragic account of a car crash which killed three generations of a Mennonite family. They were musicians. Hear them sing here.

And now I’m off to spend the day with my friend Teresa Evans.


3 thoughts on “Quickie Wednesday

  1. Charles Cowling

    Hello Charles,

    I agree with you about the term “death midwife.” Some of us have tried to discourage the use of that term and, so far, I prefer “home funeral guide” or “family directed funeral assistant.”

    The core shift is from the word “director” to that of “assistant” or “guide”.

    One of the main things we focus on is ensuring that it is the family-leader that clearly keeps in the empowered role (otherwise there’s just a replacement of the authority of the funeral director with the authority of the “guide”)

    I have also taken issue with a number of home-funeral advocates who sell themselves at the expense of funeral directors who are just as compassionate, sensitive, and capable of a home funeral as they are.

    They tout themselves as having superior service, more in touch with a family’s needs – that may be true when comparing themselves to a “big box” funeral from a scripted chainstore business, but that’s certainly not the case with a number of the smaller independent directors, and

    I’d like to see their ‘pitches’ be less about how bad the other service is and simply be explicit about the positive home-centric activities they engage in.

    Indeed, many of the independent funeral directors I meet already conduct home funerals. They just don’t advertise it.

    In my natural funeral talks, one of the things I always cite is the UK hospice movement (begun back when 90+% were dying in hospital). There was a clear mission to change that percentage, and hospice did.

    I hope we’ll see the same thing here, with a return to in-home wakes and funerals. In the States we’ve definitely taken up the route of “direct burial” and “direct cremation” – in part because of the expense, and in part because so many of us live so far apart these days.

    If a funeral director can facilitate a funeral at the person’s home (when the home and family situation is right for that)perhaps that will be just the thing to 1) lower the cost and hassle, 2) ensure the life is celebrated and honored rather than expediently ‘disposed of’, and 3) empower funeral directors AND family members to each have a vital and meaningful role in the last ritual of someone’s life.

    Once a home has had a funeral in it, I think the home itself is changed. For some, that may be a terrible thing. For others, it’s exactly the step that can deepen grief into transformation.

    Charles Cowling
  2. Charles Cowling

    Thanks for mentioning Pam Vetter's loving newsletter and the tragic car crash story.

    Pam has been a great encouragement to me in advocating a better funeral industry. I do my best to follow her example of a servant with a pure heart.

    Although i wail on the corruption in the funeral profession, the pure heart for serving families is the best weapon of all.

    Your Funeral Guy

    Charles Cowling
  3. Charles Cowling
    Rupert Callender

    Good stuff Charles. What springs out at me though, is only 24 hours passing between the mother dying and her removal to a crematorium. UK paperwork and doctor's certificates aside, I think this is an astonishingly quick turn around. The first thing we say to a family is "There's no rush," as one of the biggest regrets a family has is doing everything too quickly. They are missing an opportunity for the emotions to evolve. Let's not forget, we are in a different sort of time here.

    Charles Cowling

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