Deacon Greg links the Times on home funerals. From Katie Zezima’s article:
When Nathaniel Roe, 92, died at his 18th-century farmhouse here the morning of June 6, his family did not call a funeral home to handle the arrangements.
Instead, Mr. Roe’s children, like a growing number of people nationwide, decided to care for their father in death as they had in the last months of his life. They washed Mr. Roe’s body, dressed him in his favorite Harrods tweed jacket and red Brooks Brothers tie and laid him on a bed so family members could privately say their last goodbyes.
The next day, Mr. Roe was placed in a pine coffin made by his son, along with a tuft of wool from the sheep he once kept. He was buried on his farm in a grove off a walking path he traversed each day.
“It just seemed like the natural, loving way to do things,” said Jennifer Roe-Ward, Mr. Roe’s granddaughter. “It let him have his dignity.”
I’ve worked with funeral homes for over twenty years. I do think funeral directors strive for dignity, a professional approach, and genuine care for the bereaved. They attend to every detail. Some practices I wince at, on aesthetic or even liturgical grounds. But they do a lot for people who are often in a state of shock. You can expect to pay $3,000 or often more for these services.
I was thinking of blogging on a recent encounter when I read Greg’s post this morning. I wonder how would this translate to Catholic practices associated with the funeral rites. We have an experience at our parish today, in fact. The deceased lived in Iowa for most of his life, but moved closer to family out-of-state years ago to be cared for. He died in March, and was cremated. The funeral is today.
Reading the story of Mr. Roe’s funeral, I can see how the participation of the family was quite meaningful. On the other hand, with the acceptance of cremation in religious traditions and in the culture, people can delay or neglect the final burial or internment of remains. Is this a good thing? We celebrated a funeral when my father died, but I believe my younger brother still has the urn of remains in his house … somewhere. The convenience of remains that can be simply carried also means that grieving may be postponed. Caring for and burying the dead used to be a task one could not put off. Family and friends, ready or not, were confronted with the reality of dealing with death.
Six states, Connecticut, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska and New York require a funeral director’s involvement. Otherwise, surviving loved ones can deal, if they choose, with various procedures, permits, and permissions to do some or all of a funeral home’s work. Greg doesn’t mention how he or his parish would adapt to cutting the funeral home out of some of the work. Excluding the occasional memorial service, I’ve been in parishes where we’ve had to deal with the occasional funeral along these lines. What about your experiences?
The Trappists in my archdiocese do make caskets, including simple rectangular models in pine: