Full Moon Funeral
Five years ago, when I learned it was possible to attend the dead at home, the light bulb lit again. As a hospice nurse, I had accompanied family members as their loved ones died; as a midwife I had been with parents as they said goodbye to a dying newborn child. I had seen overwhelming and all-encompassing grief. And now I would be helping Laura and Beth care for their mother during the time immediately after death.
Being with Laura and Beth after their mother died was so much like being with a woman in labor. I attended them, but it was very clear that this was about what they needed to do. Like a midwife, I was there to reassure them that this was natural. When we got scared, I told them it was all right.
Laura and Beth cared for their mother at home for more than two days. On the third morning, they arranged for the funeral director to retrieve her body. As they lovingly helped place her on a sheet on the floor, they tucked flowers, love notes, and mementos in her arms and wrapped her up. They escorted her body to the waiting black van.
We got in my car and followed the van the few miles to the crematory. It was an industrial looking place, about the size of a large garage. It had a cement floor, high ceiling, and metal walls. A technician in work clothes opened the door for us. There was no family waiting area or place to sit.