Deborah knows how to care. Her family, her home, her guests and her mother, Elsie were all cared for by her loving arms-in-constant-motion.
Deborah knew what was going to be needed ahead of time and spontaneously in the moment the hour her mother, Elsie, died.
Deborah choose to have a home funeral aided by colleague Marie Naubert and myself. We arrived the morning of Elsie’s death and stood beside Deborah, her sister, her niece and husband as they gave form to their next steps. First, simply being with their mother’s body and then slowly caring for the body, while allowing their grief to settle into the timing of events. Slow and sometimes deliberate, other times scattered and giddy with each other, but always minding the truth of their mother’s / their grandmother’s death in a most sacred and natural human way.
It was very healing for me to witness the ease this family connected all members together during their time of loss. As Deborah’s husband commented, “It is not painful. Yes, it is very sad, but it is not painful. It is intimate.”
Marie and I supported Deborah and her sister as they washed Elsie’s body in a ritual of true significance, involving the family, their mother’s body and emotions. It felt good and appropriate to perform these rites in their own home, in the midst of other daily activities. There was an easy agreement within the family for each to find their own comfortable range of closeness to the events around Elsie’s death. And as a result there was plenty of coming and going.
While Deborah and her sister washed Elsie’s body, Deborah’s niece, who was having her 15th birthday that very day, read The Blessing, by Starhawk. The transmission of poetry from the granddaughter to the life-extending-beyond Grandmother filled the room with sacredness. The maternal line: Grandmother’s body on the bed, two mothers on either side and the granddaughter at the foot of the bed, connected in the journey of life through death. Blessing and washing each area of Elsie’s body these women opened to the essence of the love between them. It was very intimate. Profound feelings found their way home through tears. The body being the anchor for the experiences of the soul; the body is the touchstone through which we enter each other’s lives.
Deborah and her sister chose the dress and bedding arrangement for their mother’s body. They adorned her hair, arranged flowers, burned oils, and played music. All of these elements were tied together with a Love so huge it was palpable.
Elsie’s body was “Layed out” over ice packs for the next four days. This gave the family time to process, share, feel and grieve together weaving new memories into their collective memory bank that they can all draw from and support one other in their days to come.