Highlights From the NHFA Conference!

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

Some photos from the conference:

Sacred Altar

Body Care with Claire Turnham and Jerrigrace Lyons

 

 

Before I Die Wall

Heidi Boucher with her film In the Parlor

 

     Jerrigrace Lyons

Old and New Friends: Kim Adams, Zenith Virago, Peg Lorenz, Nina Thompson, Lee Roark

      NHFA Coffin               

Pia Interlandi’s Garments for the Grave

Silent Auction Room

 

Wool baby coffins from Bellacouche

Panel of Jewish, Buddhist and Muslim perspectives on after death care (David Zinner, Lucinda Herring, and NoorudDean Abu Ibraheem)

Creating the New American Buddhist Funeral

Below is a beautiful article from  Trident Magazine in which they interview Amy Cunningham, a New York State-licensed funeral director and death educator trained in overseeing at-home funerals.

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. Continue reading…

Conscious Dying

Caring_for_our_own
“Conscious dying” is a term used to describe the process of preparing for a peaceful transition. It acknowledges that each of us is going to die and that contemplating what a “good death” means can help us prepare to leave this life with a sense of acceptance, completion, and peace of mind.

Though there is more benefit in beginning this practice and preparation early in adult life, often it is done after receiving a terminal diagnosis.

The path of conscious dying is unique for everyone, but there are common elements in each person’s journey:

  • Pre-planning: completing Advance Directives
  • Making informed choices: Life Support/Death Support
  • Releasing attachments & Healing relationships
  • Understanding the physical and emotional stages of dying
  • Sitting vigil with the dying
  • Religious/spiritual rituals at the time of death
  • Planning music and sacred singing at the deathbed
  • Choosing options for after-death care, funerals, and final disposition

The work of conscious dying may call for the skills of a clergy person, therapist, death midwife, or the generous listening skills of a compassionate family member of friend.  Assistance in identifying and working with difficult emotions such as fear, shame, or other unresolved issues can lift the burdens from the heart, mind, and spirit of the dying person and contribute to a more graceful, peaceful passage.