Q. What is a home-based funeral?
A home-based funeral happens when a loved one is cared for at home or sacred space after death, giving family and friends time to gather and participate in:
- planning and carrying out after-death rituals or ceremonies
- preparing the body for burial or cremation by bathing, dressing and laying out for visitation
- keeping the body cool with noninvasive techniques, such as ice
- filing the death certificate and obtaining transport and burial permits
- transporting the deceased to the place of burial or cremation
- facilitating the final disposition, such as digging the grave in a natural burial
- hiring professionals for specific products or services
Home-based funerals may occur within the family home or not. Some nursing homes, for example, may allow the family to care for the deceased after death, and more church committees are housing and caring for the dead. The emphasis is on minimal, non-invasive, and environmentally friendly care of the body. Support and assistance to carry out after-death care may come from home funeral educators or guides, but their goal is to facilitate maximum involvement of the family in charge of the funeral process, and their social network. (excerpted from National Home Funeral Alliance) For more information on Home-based funeral care click HERE.
Q. What is embalming?
Embalming is the postmortem chemical process utilized to temporarily prohibit decomposition. During embalming the embalmer replaces the blood found in a human body with formaldehyde, methanol or similar chemical substance and attempts to return the body to an acceptable “life-like” physical appearance. The achieved results keep a body suitable for funeral and burial rituals, scientific examination and long-distance transportation.
Q. Is embalming required by law?
No. Embalming is not required by law in any state. Embalming is required by some funeral homes if a body is to be displayed for an open casket ceremony.
Q. I thought if the body was not embalmed, the burial had to be within 24 hours. Is that true?
No. You can use refrigeration or dry ice to keep the body cool and thereby wait for days to have the ceremony. Many people following natural burial methods for their loved ones have delayed the funeral process for up to a week using refrigeration and dry ice as tools to delay decomposition. There are many people who have home funerals and have vigils for days just using dry ice.
Q. What are the environmental concerns surrounding contemporary funerals and cemeteries?
Today, more than 20,000 contemporary cemeteries in the United States bury the following each year:
· Over 800,000 gallons of embalming fluid containing the known carcinogen formaldehyde
· Over 100,000 tons of steel, copper, and bronze
· Over 1,600,000 tons of plastic and steel reinforced concrete vaults
· Over 14,000 tons of steel vaults
· Over 30 million board feet of hardwoods
The amount of energy required to produce and transport these products is immense. The use of water for irrigation and chemical fertilizers also impacts the environment negatively.
Q. What is green or natural burial?
According to the Green Burial Council, green or natural burial is a way of caring for the dead with minimal environmental impact that furthers such legitimate ecological aims as the conservation of natural resources, reduction of carbon emissions, protection of worker health, and the restoration and/or preservation of habitat. For more information on Natural burial click HERE.
Q. How does green burial differ from conservation burial?
Conservation burial is a term coined by the Green Burial Council at the 2005 Land Trust Alliance National Rally. The concept calls for a cemetery’s adherence to a number of protocols to ensure that burials never degrade an ecosystem and, where possible, facilitate ecological restoration. It requires that surveys (biological, geological, hydrological) be done to determine where burial should and should not take place on a piece of land, and at what density. Most significantly, conservation burial requires that an established, independent conservation organization, most often a land trust, serve as steward of this land and be willing to hold a conservation easement. This legally enforceable instrument, which runs with the land, guarantees that the standards for conservation burial, set forth by the Green Burial Council, will be upheld in perpetuity.
Q. What are the benefits of a conservation cemetery over a conventional cemetery?
A conservation cemetery does not displace pollutants into the environment. No metal caskets, concrete or metal vaults, fertilizer, formaldehyde, plastics, foreign matter, or mined stone are introduced into the landscape. A conservation cemetery uses a conservation easement to forever protect the sacred land from development. Naturally native plants and animals flourish in its sanctuary. Visitors feel a connection to the earth and to their loved ones that only a natural setting can provide.
Q. How is the burial process in a conservation cemetery different from the conventional method?
All of the graves in a conservation cemetery are dug by hand with care taken not to disturb the natural living environment. Graves are generally 4 feet deep where microbial rich soil aids in the natural return of the remains to the earth. Two to three feet of local soil is placed in a mound above each grave to further assist in the decomposition process. This soil is also used as a base for revegetating the grave using local and native plants. In lieu of an upright headstone a naturally collected native stone from the property is engraved and used to mark the resting place. Family and friends are always invited to participate in the burial process.
Q. Will burying people without vaults and without embalming damage water quality?
The microbes and bacteria found within the dead human body die or become inert within hours or days of death. For this organic matter to reach a natural water source it would have to rapidly penetrate many feet of soil and rock. Water contamination has not occurred in conservation cemeteries across the nation, and natural burial has actually been shown to strengthen the natural landscape.
Q. Where is the Life By Life office located?
Life By Life operates on a small scale and does not have a public office at this time. Until we have a public office we will meet with families one-on-one at the healthcare facility, their home or any other space.
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