This past weekend I was at the Funeral Consumers Alliance (FCA) conference down in Atlanta. And I do believe a good time was had by all! Three days of people from all walks of life, coming together to talk openly, practically, and best of all—enthusiastically about our finite lifetime and how we want to deal with that.
The FCA is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting a consumer’s right to choose a meaningful, dignified, affordable funeral. It’s education, advocacy, and objectivity in an area that is mystifying, intimidating, and anxiety producing. Everyone could use a little FCA in their life. People frequently spend so much more than they want to, or have the means for, simply because they don’t know the laws or the options, and have no idea that something like the FCA exists and can help them. Check out the national website, which has so much information, both general and detailed, as well as the sections by state for your local laws.
Anyway, back to the conference. Much as I would like to share all that I learned, I’m just going to give a little snippet of the two topics I love the most. I almost worship them for their potential to change those places in our funeral customs that have become so lackluster and conformist that it’s a crime we settle for it.
Home funerals. The National Home Funeral Alliance is spreading the word and education about our rights to care for our own dead. Nothing against funeral homes, of course. And often caring for your own loved ones can be done jointly with help from the funeral profession, but people need to know that this is an option. We do not have to outsource the care of our loved ones, and we should know how rich, meaningful, and even life-changing it can be when one is more hands-on involved with the body. We got a little demo of how to bathe, prepare, and carry a body at home. Maybe it’s not for everyone, but how are we to know what depth of involvement we’re capable of if we don’t even know it’s an option?
Urban Death Project. In a word (or two): Human compost. Again, not for everyone. But surely with all the gardeners, environmentalists, conservationists, and mad recyclers out there, lots of folks would want this if they knew it could happen. Katrina Spade is working diligently to bring this to life. If you aren’t immediately intrigued by it, I encourage you to just be open. It’s such a radical idea in some ways, but that just proves how entrenched we are in our traditional customs, and our lack of imagination in how things could be different, and better. There is just no reason to believe that we can only have the options that are currently available. It is time to get out of the cave and innovate! Saying goodbye to our bodies can be so much more interesting, productive, and even beautiful.
The End-of-Life conversation is richer than I ever could have imagined. I really do hope more and more people jump on this exhilarating bandwagon, because, well… that’s where the fun is.