Home funerals are carried out either solely by the deceased's family or with limited help from a funeral home, and hopefully always with help from one's friends. The privacy afforded by having one's dead loved one close by, in the comfort of one's own home, can be key to a less forced letting-go, especially in the cases of a sudden death or the death of a child. All parts of a home funeral and vigil are slower and more comforting compared to times when feelings of separation and strangeness-of-place come about when the dead is whisked away and kept hidden in a funeral home, seen only for a couple hours before the burial itself. Quiet, leisure alone time with one's loved one can often be the most healing and sacred part of the whole after-death experience.
The decoration of the casket can also be a very healing part of this whole process. This is often a way which family and friends, especially children, can choose to be involved with the deceased in a creative way that can engender ease with the dead body being near-by, as well as being a unique expression of one's final farewells.
Outside of legal constants and such practices as the washing and cooling of the body, there are as many ways to have a home funeral and vigil as there are families to have them. In 2006, the family of Leon Rhodes chose to ask for help from a funeral home for necessary legal paper work as well as for Leon's travel to the crematorium. In 2005, the family of Karen Johns chose to do the the preparations themselves but asked for help with paper work. But both families chose to decorate their loved one's casket, create a unique home vigil for several days after the death, and shape their final ceremonies and goodbyes in truly personal and intimate ways, ways which nurtured all of them during a very difficult and sad time.
Please click on thumbnails below for larger views:
Photographs by Penny Rhodes and Bob Johns
For more photographs of Penny's father Leon's home funeral, please see her photo collage on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A4nl-7prp2A