What is a Home Funeral?
A home funeral allows a community of relationships to experience peace and intimacy at the time of life’s last transition. It gives people a chance to embrace the presence of death, rather than fear and avoid it. Care for a newly deceased person at home gives family members and friends the opportunity to carry out after-death rituals or ceremonies, or to join in a creative process such as decorating a cremation or burial casket.
In preparing a home funeral, family or friends respectfully bathe and dress the deceased, do hair or makeup, and lay out the body for visitation. Following ancient traditional practice, family members may then choose to gather with others in the presence of the deceased, sharing stories and memories over the course of several days, or simply come together for an intimate home memorial service.
Friends and family can gain further closure by accompanying the transfer of the deceased to a burial site, where some may wish to help dig the grave, or witnessing the cremation to the final transformative process.
History of Home Funerals
Until the early 1900s, American families often provided tender care for deceased loved ones. Together, family members washed, anointed and dressed the body after death. It remained in the home while visitors from the community came to pay their respects, and was then transported to a place of worship for a service and thence to a graveyard.
Many American homes in those days had a front room known as a parlor, after the French word for conversation. Families filled their parlors with cherished mementos, massive furniture, portraits in elaborate frames, and quite frequently, a piano. These formal rooms were usually kept shining clean and closed off from the rest of the house, so families naturally used them as a dignified place for viewing and visiting.
The tradition of caring for one’s own dead began to change during the Civil War. Soldiers who died on the battlefield were usually far from their loved ones, but the practice of embalming enabled ex-tended transport of the body. At that point, facilities called “funeral parlors” began to appear, meeting the needs of the grieving who had not been present at the time of death.
Eventually, funeral parlors became known as funeral homes, and the American approach to death became a corporate industry. Meanwhile, the formal home parlor gave way to the more casual family living room. Today, however, a growing movement has returned the honor of caring for loved ones to the hands of family and friends, and witnessing the circle of life may once more become a deeply meaningful experience.
At Threadgill Memorial, our home funeral mission is to empower the family and friends of the deceased to experience the time immediately after death as a natural transition. Home funerals allow people to honor their loved one in an intimate and personally significant manner, free from the forced schedule of a typical funeral home. Families and trusted friends are in control of timing and environment, which allows them to experience the serenity of the death process and its aftermath in an unrushed, private and reflective way.