by Bill Raley
Heidi died on Monday, July 29, 2019, around 2:45 PM. She was alert and talking with family, albeit with effort, at 1 PM. She said that she was ready. When asked if she was at peace, she replied, “Finally.” She was not in pain. In her last minutes she was holding my chin and beard with one hand while Polly held the other, nuzzling her shoulder. Rachel was holding her feet. Heidi's breathing slowed, Polly began to sing, and Rachel felt Heidi relax. After two more slow breaths and a final, subtle frisson, Heidi died. One cannot imagine a more peaceful, beautiful death. Heidi, taking care of us right up to the end, made it easy for us. As Polly said, Heidi “died as she lived: Radiant and surrounded by loved ones.”
Ben was with Heidi a short time before her death, and within a minute or so afterwards. When she died, Ben was working on her coffin. Heidi would have appreciated what was going on in the moment of her death.
Here’s what happened: When the mail carrier walked up the driveway, Ben noticed she looked dejected, so he asked how she was doing. She replied that the mail had just fallen out of her truck and none of the people who saw it offered to help her gather it from the street. Now it was all unsorted. She said to Ben, “Thanks for asking; how is your day going?” Ben replied, “I am making a casket.” Heidi would’ve liked to have seen the mail lady’s expression.
by Samuel Perry
My first big lesson from teaching an online green burial course has been, “None of us are teaching to ourselves,” said simply by Cole Imperi, a colleague of mine.
That sounds completely obvious, right? Well, it wasn’t. To be totally honest, I thought teaching an online course was going to be really easy and fun. Don’t get me wrong, it is fun, but not exactly how I expected it and it certainly is not easy. I was thinking, “I get to be in whatever clothes I want, in the comfort of my own home, and teach something I love to people I know how to talk with, funeral directors.”
Easy, right?... wrong. In retrospect, the naïve assumptions I made seem so obvious now, but that is what I love about learning, the good bits don’t come easy because change is never easy. That said, not everyone loves to learn either.
by Lucie C. Boucher
As you walk in, you immediately feel welcome and comfortable. Most of the furniture is exquisitely handmade. You know how wood can be so very soft that you want to run your hand over it just to feel how silky it is? There are beautiful touches everywhere you look in their home – a series of art quilts on the wall, elegant colored glass hanging in the window, oriental rugs over hardwood floors, and healthy green plants everywhere. It’s the kind of place where you want to be with friends spending the afternoon chatting and sharing a glass of wine.
As you listen to stories of their life together, you can’t help noticing all the wonderfully personal touches throughout the house. There’s an authentic personalized military sword on the wall over the wood stove, a two-foot-tall fat-bellied Buddha statue tucked beside a table filled with rocks and plants, a fake stuffed moose hanging on the gable of the cathedral wall, and a coffin in front of the sliding glass doors. Yes, you read that right: a coffin with a pot of markers sitting on top of it. The coffin placed strategically looking over the raised beds in the yard.
I’m standing in the kitchen of our old Vermont farmhouse at the age of 14 with my mother’s eyes boring into mine as she is telling me that under no circumstances will I or any of my four siblings be taking care of her in her old age. She is insisting that, when the time comes, I will take her to a nursing home and boot her out the door.
It’s clear to me that talking with her about what she wants to have happen to her body after her death is just not on the table, now or in the future, and I was right about that years later when, despite recurring attempts during her favorite show, NCIS, we never quite got to the point. “Gee, Mom, that looks like a nasty way to die. I wonder if he’ll be buried or cremated? Which do you think you’d prefer? What? Oh, yeah, autopsy first, then we never find out. OK.”