My friend Carole died last week. Her death was not unexpected; she had been battling ill health for several years. Carole was part of a larger community that I belong to – one that we call The Village. It originated from the local Waldorf School that our children attended. It has thrived for years.
The Village embraced Carole as she was dying; helping her and her family cope in every way imaginable. And when Carole passed, the care and attention did not stop. We took her dying and her death and brought it into her home in a very real and personal way.
There was no call to the Funeral Parlor. Instead the call went out to all the women; they came and washed the body and prepared Carole. The men were called to rearrange the room where her body was to remain for three days. During this time Carole was never alone – her friends and family came to pay their last respects and honor this kind and generous woman who we all loved. The house was full of celebration, food and even laughter.
On the third day the men came and placed Carole in a cardboard coffin. The outside of which was painted and decorated with lovely bright colors and full of messages to Carole. Notes and mementoes were placed in the coffin. Instead of an expensive hearse the men carried her out to our friend Joe’s large station wagon. The women were softly singing as we slid her in.
We drove to the funeral home where there was the first of three services. She was cremated after this one.
There are two great events all humans share. The first is conception and birth, the last is death. We participate fully in each one and both are shrouded in mystique. In her sickness, Carole was closely surrounded by those who loved her. We all felt honored to be custodians of Carole in her waning days and we were blessed to share in her dying.
Homes have always been places of births and deaths. We are beginning to reclaim our right to keep our loved ones at home and attend to them as our ancestors have for thousands of years. We brought the magnificent mystery of death a bit closer to our hearts. Thank you Carole – that was your last gift to us.
This is Michael Ellis with a Perspective.