Being interested in end of life issues, I read a book in the 1990’s about caring for the dead. (The author has since co-authored a new book that I now recommend: Final Rights: Reclaiming the American Way of Death by Joshua Slocum and Lisa Carlson.) My husband and I talked about what we wanted and didn’t want regarding after death care and made sure our children knew our preferences.
In 2007 my husband and I had the opportunity to serve a mission in New Zealand for 18 months where we saw that families caring for the bodies of their deceased loved ones at home was the ordinary thing to do. We attended 4 home viewings, each time marveling at how comfortable we felt, how we liked the simple caskets, how the families were able to honor the traditions of their culture and their religion. We marveled at the respect the family showed by always having a family member in the home with the body, and how natural it was to see the person with the paleness that occurs with death rather than artificial makeup.
When my husband passed away in 2011, it was satisfying for me and my adult children to care for him at home, but it was challenging to do so in a country with so many misconceptions about the value and legality of doing so.
I became a volunteer with FCA of Utah, in hopes that I can help Utahans learn they have choices beyond those offered at a mortuary. I want everyone to know that they can direct the funeral of those they have loved and cared for in life.
In 1994 I saw an article in the newspaper about a man in New Hampshire that made a plain pine casket for his dad. In the article a Funeral Director was quoted as saying, "A lot of people want to be buried in a pine box, but when it comes time they end up with the standard commercial casket." I was dumbfounded. Why can't people get what THEY want? So I did some research that made me conclude I needed to join FCA (then called FAMSA "Funeral and Memorial Societies of America").
Six years went by, when in 2000 I had seen enough of articles in my local newspaper depicting families who purchased a funeral they couldn't afford, relegating themselves to fund raising to pay the bill. I exclaimed, "Don't they know that a funeral doesn't have to cost so much?!" Determined to liberate Utah families to care for their dead in an affordable way I, with a small group of enthusiasts, restarted the Utah affiliate which had folded prior to 94. And here we are today.
Our most dramatic event happened after the Utah Legislature took away the ability of citizens to file a death certificate in 2006. They handed it exclusively to Funeral Directors, some of which lied about the law and up-sold families who wanted a death certificate only. So in 2009 we convinced the Legislature to return to citizens the right to file a death certificate directly with Vital Records. Joyce 801-368-5884
Here I am pictured in a place I’d love to be buried; directly into the soil to nourish this beautiful Earth that has always so deeply nourished my soul. It was my passion for the environment that brought me to the awareness of “green burial” around 2013. I immediately latched onto the ideas of both natural burial and home funerals.
Having given birth at home, and homeschooled my children, home funerals seem so right to me. When the time comes for me to care for a loved one in death, I look forward to grieving and caring for them in my own personal space and on my own terms. I come from a long line of D.I.Y. enthusiasts, so I imagine us coming together to build a casket, dress the body, dig the grave, and any other healing and meaningful work.
I know some people are comforted seeing their loved ones' bodies appear to be sleeping through embalming as they pamper them in the satins of an expensive casket. However, I know there are also down-to-earth folks like me who yearn for more simple, frugal, and environmentally-friendly alternatives. These options take a bit more “digging”, but that’s where me and my team at the FCA come in as volunteers to help you plan a funeral that’s fitting for both your vision and your budget. Sharlynn 801-391-6556
Forrest Cutch, Representative Brad Daw, Joyce Mitchell,
Marcia & Dave Racehorse-Robles 2009