Bonus Articles

Home Wakes

Peg Lorenz | www.PeacefulPassageAtHome.com

Originally printed in Lesbian Connection (Nov/Dec 2014 Responses)


In the last LC, and actually for a while now, I’ve noticed the courageous and sometimes sad stories about caregiving (Sept/Oct 2014 On the Topic), as well as the remembrances in every issue of those who have died. I want all my sisters to be aware that at the time of death, we do not have to let our beloved partners and friends be taken away by strangers from the funeral industry. There is currently a revival of the very old and loving tradition of HOME WAKES, which allow grieving families to care for their loved ones in the privacy and intimacy of their own homes.

The U.S. and Canada are the only countries in the world where people regularly pay enormous amounts of money to “professionals” to take care of our loved ones after death.

Did you know that in every U.S. state families can keep the deceased at home (a home wake of one to three days is usual), and that embalming is not required? In 41 states families can also fill out and file the death certificates themselves, and they can transport the deceased to a crematory or cemetery. Basically, they can act as their own funeral director throughout the entire process.

However, in nine states (Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, New Jersey, and New York), the funeral industry has successfully lobbied to pass laws requiring that funeral directors be hired to do the paperwork and transporting.

The U.S. and Canada are the only countries in the world where people regularly pay enormous amounts of money to “professionals” to take care of our loved ones after death. People in other countries think we’re crazy. They take it as a matter of course that family members should care for each
other in life, and in death. You may already have been brainwashed into thinking that dead bodies are ugly or creepy. In fact, when washed and dressed and kept cool with ice packs, bodies are natural and beautiful. The quiet and peaceful time we have in our own homes after death with the body and spirit of our loved one is precious, and it can be a transformative and profound experience.

I belong to a new and growing group of mostly women (not a surprise) who are challenging this culture to look at death as a normal part of life. We, the home funeral educators, are the bridge of information from the grandmothers of the past, who taught their daughters and granddaughters the simple, beautiful rituals that honor the people we love even after death (until embalming was invented about 150 years ago). Someday, home wakes will be a clear and obvious choice. Caring for our loved ones after death will be common practice, just as childbirth at home has become. That time for us is not now. But the baby boomers are going to change this just like we have altered so many other institutions in this culture that we have touched. Home birth, home schooling, home hospice, and now, home death.

The quiet and peaceful time we have in our own homes after death with the body and spirit of our loved one is precious, and it can be a transformative and profound experience.

The concept of home wakes may make you uncomfortable at first. That’s completely understandable given the misconceptions and downright lies told by some in the funeral industry in order to keep us afraid. As lesbians, we have often lived our lives questioning authority. We need to be courageous and take back control, and make our decisions based on what is good for us and our families and community. For thousands of years, women have been doing this, and we can do this now!

First, find out more information. You can find me and my service, Peaceful Passage at Home, at www.peacefulpassageathome.com. I am also on the board of directors of the National Home Funeral Alliance, and we have a wonderful website at www.homefuneralalliance.org.

My home is in central Massachusetts, but I’ve done workshops and trainings in other parts of the country in order to teach people how to care for their own after death. Gather a group, find a place, and I’ll be there.

Peg Lorenz, Home Funeral Educator

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