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.

 

 

 

National Home Funeral Alliance Conference — Sept 22-24, 2017

Join us on September 22 – 24 for the 2017 National Home Funeral Alliance Conference at Pearlstone Center in Reisterstown, Maryland (30 minutes from Baltimore.) We will be presenting a workshop on How to Start a Threshold Care Group in addition to organizing an altar project, a Before I Die Wall, and leading music and home funeral stories around a bonfire! We hope to see you there!

For all the details and to register for this amazing 2 day event with speakers, presenters, authors, and filmmakers from around the world click on this link: 2017 National Home Funeral Alliance Conference