This is the question I hear 9/10 times when I start sharing about Returning Home, “You can do that? I wish I knew this when my(fill in the blank) was dying.” Well that ladies and gentlemen is one of the reasons why I am here and why I have started this non-profit* To educate you and the community. So here I am today, giving a brief introduction to the sacred and traditional act of caring for our dead at home. What I do and what you can do too!
Let me start by saying there are currently 8 states that require you MUST use a funeral director. Those 8 states are; Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, New Jersey, and New York. This doesn’t mean you cannot have a home funeral it just means that the state requires you to make all your arrangements through a funeral home. Here is a link to more information about your individual state and their rules and regulations. (CLICK HERE)
In Colorado, where I am located, the family does have the right to care for their dead. Most states have a common requirement that the body of the deceased must be embalmed or refrigerated after 24 hours. For families at home the act of laying and packing dry ice around the body fulfills this requirement.
The second thing that most people don’t know is that YOU, yes you, can fill out the information on death certificate to be signed by the doctor or coroner and file it yourself with the county health department. As a funeral director my first job would be asking families all the information required for a death certificate, full name, place of birth, parents names, date of death, ect. A funeral home is doing this as a service (that you pay for) and is not required by law to preform. This is the same with the “Permit for Disposition” that is required for cremation or burial. You get the forms required from the county health department and you can fill them out yourself and file them for free! I will say that in all honesty it is a very simple thing to do but you can have some trouble tracking down a doctor to sign the death certificate and the health department LOVES to find mistakes and send it back. This can add extra headache if you don’t know exactly what information you need. But don’t worry that’s where I come in to help educate and guide your family through all the loop holes.
And finally, yes this is the end of my brief introduction, the cremation or burial. Currently in Colorado it is LEGAL to bury on property you own. When you file the Disposition Permit you must state whether the body is cremated or buried and the location that this will take place. Now remember that this is filed with your state so if you decided to sell your property in 15 years you are required to release to information to the buyer that “grandpa is buried in the backyard” If you chose cremation there aren’t many states that legally let you “do it yourself” Colorado has a great community in Crestone that operates an outdoor funeral pyre (Find more information here) that is legal and unique in our state. Most funeral homes are happy to work with families to provide the cremation at a low cost as long as the families have the required paperwork.
So at the beginning I said education was one of the reasons why I am doing what I am doing. There are two other reasons that I feel very strongly about and that is reconnecting with sacred traditions of caring for our dead and the care of our Mother Earth. But that is for another day.