Notes From The Field, Issue 1

Welcome to Notes From the Field, the column dedicated to sharing your stories of Creating Home Funeral Friendly Communities! In the months to come you’ll find notes on conversations our members have had with hospices, hospitals, medical examiners, funeral homes and neighbors. We will also use this spot to help you feel informed and empowered to confidently start the foundational work of Home Funeral Education. Sharing your advocacy work is so important because it motivates other members to get out and get started, also when you share your successes and challenges we learn from your experience.

We love to teach about the reasons home funerals are a great choice for many families, but if we haven’t first done the groundwork of making sure our local institutions are ready to receive us then we risk creating more stress for the families we are trying to serve. Since our amazing conference in September, the NHFA board has received a number of emails from members asking how to volunteer. While we can call on you to help out on a task such as volunteering at the next conference, the best way you can volunteer for the organization is speaking about home funerals in your community, making connections in the places that barriers to home funerals exist, and telling us about it so we can highlight the work for other members. If you need some help getting started take a look at the “Our Work” page on our website. Also, our book “Building Bridges Along the Death Care Continuum” is an invaluable resource when planning to reach out to your local institutions!

Here’s a letter I received from NHFA member Mary Ann Perry of Southern Oregon. We had corresponded a bit before she went into a meeting with her local Medical Examiner to discuss families bringing bodies home, what a success! Thanks so much for sharing your story with us, Mary Ann!

I hope you are well. I’m so excited from my meeting with our medical examiner last week! I just love him! In our county, we have deputy sheriff medical examiners who are actually the detectives, and then we share a doctor with five other counties. Though he said it’s rare for a family to want to take possession of their loved one from him directly, it does happen and he knows that it is safe and legal. He also lets other people know that it is if they are concerned, which he says city police sometimes are when the family wants the loved one to stay in the home. He was very knowledgeable and gave me a whole hour of his time. He shared a story of sleeping in the same room with his dead grandfather back home in Alabama when he was a little boy. He was very comfortable with all of it – and intimately understood what the NHFA is supporting.

I followed up with a thank you card and am hoping that he can steer me in the right direction for working with our 3 local hospitals. I’m not familiar or comfortable in the hospital setting, and I’m eager to work on that. The only downer is that he is retiring in two years, though he said he is working hard to train his fellow sheriffs on all that he does. I am so thankful to have met him!

In other news, a presentation to the hospice staff where I volunteer is in the works. The medical director finally got back to me and is supportive of the idea. The organizing and fitting into to their busy schedule is the next hurdle. I’m hoping for something around the beginning of the year and our volunteer coordinator is helping me to set it up. I’ve read the “Building Bridges” book and am looking forward to tailoring the NHFA hospice presentation to suit my audience and state. So thankful for all of the resources on the NHFA website.

Be part of the conversation, send your stories to