Primary Home Funeral Resources
National Home Funeral Alliance is committed to supporting home funeral education. Their website is a great resource for information about any aspect of taking care of your own dead. The NHFA Vice President, Dani LaVoire writes about the Value of a Home Funeral. They published an expanded second edition of Holly Stevens’ Undertaken With Love: A Home Funeral Guide for Families and Community Care Groups, a comprehensive guidebook that educates family rights to home funerals.
Funeral Consumers Alliance is the most complete source for information about funerals.
Funeral Consumers Alliance of Maine 2016 Price List Survey shows prices for funeral homes in Maine. Their booklet, Before I Go, You Should Know, is a great tool to help compile your wishes and information your survivors need, and as a way to initiate the conversation about your wishes with the family.
Barbara Karnes, RN offers end of life education materials for families and professionals. Her website is filled with valuable resources: The Final Act of Living: Reflections of a Longtime Hospice Nurse is a great read if you are taking care of someone who is dying at home. She describes what to expect in the final weeks, days, and hours of death. Gone From My Sight and The Eleventh Hour are booklets that summarize the longer book. New Rules for the End of Life Care is an educational DVD kit that teaches people how to care for their loved one during the end of their life.
Dr. Monica Williams-Murphy, an emergency room physician in Alabama, frustrated by how completely unprepared Americans are for death and dying, has written both a book, It’s OK To Die, where you can find a wealth of clear and simplified information including: insights into the process of dying, guidance for obtaining emotional and spiritual closure, clear explanations of end-of-life medical treatment options, and tools for making challenging medical decisions.
Death and dying Books
Final Rights: Reclaiming the American Way of Death by Lisa Carlson and Josh Slocum is the definitive book for consumers on the modern funeral industry and how to navigate it. Part investigative report and part practical guide, the book explains in detail the tricks of the funeral trade, and how to avoid being victimized. And for those who wish to take charge of the funeral themselves, without using a funeral home, Final Rights has a chapter on each state’s requirements written easily enough to understand.
The American Way of Death Revisited by Jessica Mitford is an updated edition of the classic expose that first raised the issues in 1963.
Final Journeys: A Practical Guide for Bringing Care and Comfort at the End of Life by Maggie Callanan, a specialist in care of the dying since 1981, contains forty short chapters distilling her experience. Excellent advice that should be read by the family, the caregivers, and even the patient.
So You’re Cremated, Now What? a book by Jesse Klafel, subtitled “Over One Hundred Creative Ways to Scatter Your Ashes” is a way to start thinking and discussing the subject of cremation as a considered choice for you or a loved one.
At Peace: Choosing a Good Death After a Long Life by Samuel Harrington, MD, provies a very practical approach to making medical decisions at the end of life. Excellent advice about VSED (Voluntarily Stopping Eating and Drinking), writing your advance directive and an appendix about dementia. It is the follow-up to Atul Gawande's Being Mortal.
It's OK That You're Not OK: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture That Doesn't Understand by Megan Devine is an excellent book about grief and loss. Megan is a psychotherapist whose husband died suddenly. Through stories, research, life tips, and creative and mindfulness-based practices, she offers a unique guide through an experience we all face.
Death and dying Movies & VIDEOS
Being Mortal FRONTLINE follows renowned New Yorker writer and Boston surgeon Atul Gawande as he explores the relationships doctors have with patients who are nearing the end of life.
Consider the Conversation, Part 1 & 2 shows inspiring dialogue about end-of-life issues
Death Makes Life Possible featuring Deepak Chopra and Marilyn Schlitz, Ph.D., the film looks at how popular culture deals with the ever-present fear many have about our own mortality
Will for the Woods Determined that his last act will be a gift to the planet, musician and psychiatrist Clark Wang prepares for his own green burial.
Dying Green is a film set in the foothills of the Appalachians, that explores one man’s vision of using green burials to conserve land. Dr. Billy Campbell, the town’s only physician, and his efforts have radically changed our understanding of burials in the United States.
Dying Wish is a film about the decision a doctor with a terminal diagnosis made to stop eating and drinking in order not to prolong his dying process, to ease his suffering and to die with grace. Website also has good Q&A about VSED (Voluntary Stopping of Eating and Drinking).
A Family Undertaking is a PBS Point of View episode about home funerals.
Grief Walker is a documentary that introduces us to Stephen Jenkinson, once the leader of a palliative care counselling team at Toronto's Mount Sinai Hospital. His mission is to turn the act of dying from denial and resistance into an essential part of life.
How to Die in Oregon is the story of how Oregon was the first state to pass a Dying with Dignity law and how it works.
In the Parlor is a beautiful film about three home funerals.
The Fish (1:45) a poem by Mary Oliver, is the first poem in this 45 minute reading.
Acceptance of Death (3:56) video essay by Alan Watts
Helping a Friend Through Grief (6:58) a video by Caitlin Doughty
What Makes Life Worth Living in the Face of Death (16:10) a TED talk by Lucy Kalinithi, reflects on life and purpose, sharing the story of her late husband, Paul, a young neurosurgeon who turned to writing after his terminal cancer diagnosis.
The House of Mourning (13:52) is a MOTH story told by Kate Braestrup. She serves as chaplain to the Maine Warden Service, joining Game Wardens as they search for those who have lost their way, and comforting those waiting for loved ones to be rescued.
The Coffinmaker (3:40) is a short but profound video about Vashon Island coffin maker Marcus Daly.
The Art of Natural Death Care (27:38) by Katelyn LaGrega raises awareness of an alternative way in which families can care for their loved ones at the time of death.
A Dr.Seuss Advance Directive (5:27) is a Tim Boon poem
Steelmantown (28:45) is a documentary about New Jersey's first green cemetery. It includes Ed Bixby, the owner, the Fertig Funeral Home and a woman who chose to be buried there.
The Coffin Club (3:47) a group of elders in New Zealand who make and decorate their own coffins, and made this musical video to tell you about it.
Dying Well: Jack Fahey (7:38) A moving video about dying and VSED (Voluntarily Stopping Eating and Drinking)
Death and dying MISCELLANEOUS reSources
Conscious Aging by Ram Dass is an audio CD that offers a guide to aging and dying from his considerable experience and insight.
Good Ground Great Beyond is a non-profit organized to create a green cemetery and open-air pyre in Mid Coast Maine. Their website is an excellent source of wisdom and a virtual reference and resource for community to connect and to contemplate the reality of change and death in our life.
It's My Death: Mortality-Friendly Education and Advocacy is a Maine-based public charity organization providing services, education, and end-of-life advocacy to people who wish to actively explore the meaning of life through embracing the certainty of death.
Maine residents who have had home funerals and are willing to advise and assist:
Julia Huttel in Poland (207) 998-4809
Sandy Yakovenko in Tenants Harbor
Klara Tammany in Auburn (207) 577-0607
Joe Yuhas in Biddeford (207) 283-4487
Death Doulas in Maine
A death doula, is a person who assists in the dying process, much like a midwife or doula does with the birthing process.
Lori Rizzuto in Damariscotta (207) 563-3353
Carrie Tyler in Kittery (877) 676-7272
Molly Nelson in Cornish, International End Of Life Doula Association Certified (207) 252-5720
Hospice Choirs in Maine
Offering song at the bedside of those approaching death.
Tourmaline Singers in Waterville, Harry Vayo (207) 465-2691, cell (207) 313-9418
Harbour Singers in Saco/Biddeford
Heartsong in Belfast
Evensong in Hancock County, Cookie Horner
Solace in Rockland & the Midcoast Area, Tony Coyne (207) 542-5305
Keeping a Body Cool
A body can usually be kept in the home for three or four days if the body is kept cool. If there is an odor, it may be fluids seeping from the body. A layer of wood shavings, sawdust or kitty litter under the body, covered by a sheet, will absorb both the odor and the liquid. In the winter, open a window a little and turn off the heat. If the weather is warm use refreezable ice sheets (look on online for Techni-Ice, Therma Freeze, Cryopac or Flexifreeze) or frozen gel packs.
Dry Ice is also an option but can be hard to use (it is not readily available and does not store easily). You’ll need about 25 pounds of dry ice per day. Because of low sales and storage issues, dry ice is no longer available at local stores, but can be purchased from these dealers:
Elm Ice Company, 56 Gray Road, Falmouth (207) 797-5691
Getchell Brothers Inc, 1 Union St., Brewer (207) 989-7335
Valley National Gases, 1122 Outer Hammond St., Bangor (207) 942-6393
Vessel Services, Inc., 1 Portland Fish Pier, Portland (207) 772-5718
For other states, use this Dry Ice Directory.
Create Your Own Funeral or Memorial Service
Grave Expectations: Planning the End Like There’s No Tomorrow by Sue Bailey and Carmen Flowers, is a good humored guide to planning your own funeral, creating a lasting memorial, throwing a goodbye party and much more.
The Art of Dying: Honoring and Celebrating Life’s Passages by Salli Rasberry and Carole Rae Watanabe, is a very encouraging book that offers a truly accessible and sensitive guide to a very difficult subject..
In Memoriam: A Practical Guide to Planning a Memorial Service by Amanda Bennett and Terence B. Foley is a unique guide that leads friends and family members through each step of planning a funeral or memorial service, from writing eulogies to arranging flowers; shows how to personalize a service; and explains the rites and rituals of various religions.
Ordained Interfaith Ministers in Maine provided a list of ministry graduates that can help with memorial services.
Emotions in Writing provides writing services for obituaries and eulogies.
Disappear Our Dead by Gin Mackey, is a mystery story that teaches you how to do a home funeral in Maine.
How to Write an Online Obituary by Melissa Jayne Kinsey
Find the Good by Heather Lende, a small town obituary writer.
After the Funeral
There are many details that must be taken care of after the death. This Washington state after death checklist shows a complete list of the steps necessary to take, regardless of whiat state the death occurs. It is also a helpful outline of the information that should be written down in a Death File.
When Someone Dies by Scott Taylor Smith, a lawyer and venture capitalist. He provides a complete, practical guide for dealing with the concrete details surrounding the death of a loved one, from funeral and estate planning to navigating the complexities of online identities.
The Executor’s Guide by Mary Randolph, J.D., offers step by step direction on how to perform the duties of a will executor.
Maine uses a streamlined probate system to settle an estate. If the estate is not large and complicated, you may be able to do it yourself. How to Probate an Estate in Maine and Eight Steps for a Personal Representative to Probate a Will and Settle an Estate in Maine are helpful articles that can help you with the process.