A Natural Undertaking is a collaborative partnership that teaches families how to be in attendance at the passing of a loved one, and the time afterwards, in the setting of one's own home. Our goal is to empower and teach family members how to participate in the after-death of a loved one as much or as little as they want, making use of some funeral home services if they choose while avoiding unnatural, unnecessary, expensive and harmful practices such as embalming.
Many believe that after death a powerful relationship exists between one's physical body and one's spirit as one's life forces disengage. Appropriate surroundings and the presence of family and friends can support and deepen this process. This important time also allows loved ones the opportunity to experience this transition in a way that is less sudden and traumatic, in a home setting that is private, intimate and familiar. Natural emotions, quiet remembering and an experience of the sacred can take place more easily in one's home than in the setting of a funeral home where interruptions of unfamiliar environments and people, as well as strange practices, can be more than jarring.
With this in mind and heart, we, of A Natural Undertaking, formed our group in January of 2008 (after attending a workshop given by Beth Knox of "Crossings") with the purpose of not only teaching ourselves how to carry out home funerals and green burials, but also with the intent of passing on this knowledge once our research proved correct and legal.
Most important to know about the services that we now offer is that they are educational and informational. We can teach and guide families through the entire home funeral process, but we cannot do it for them. Only a family member of the deceased can, for example, "act as a funeral director" by filling out and certifying (with a Registrar) a death certificate and/or transfer permit. We can teach family members how to wash and prepare the deceased's body for a vigil, but we cannot do this for them. This is a very important thing to know about home funeral guides: we, as guides and teachers, can pass on our knowledge, but we are not, and legally cannot be, the people actually doing any kinds of work that a funeral home would ordinarily do in a more conventional funeral.
That being said, here is a list of some of the levels of participation in the home funeral process that we teach:
** Preparing the way: planning for an anticipated death; teaching about legal and necessary paper work if one wants to go it alone; giving suggestions of funeral homes we have found who are willing to help out with such paper work and other support.
** Guiding family members in the washing and care of the newly deceased's body
** Guiding family members and friends in the continued care of the body for a vigil of up to three days (eg, teaching how to provide and manage dry ice to keep the deceased's body cool)
** Helping the family set up a vigil designed with their specific needs in mind
** Teaching families how to obtain and prepare a casket
We teach through:
** Workshops on the practical, legal, psychological and spiritual aspects of caring for one's own at death
** Lectures and inservice to Hospice workers, social workers and health care providers
** Telephone consultations
Who We Are
Donna Larsen is a home funeral guide and is the former Communications Director of the Green Burial Council, a national organization dedicated to preserving land through the use of green burial. Donna is our green burial expert and serves Chester County and its surrounding areas.
Penny Olivia Rhodes is a home funeral guide who has spent most of her adult years in the healing arts. She is a cranialsacral therapist by profession, and has worked with Hospice, the AIDS Service Center, and as an EMT with a local ambulance. She has also accompanied many friends and family on their final transitions.
610-756-6253 email@example.com Penny serves Berks County, specifically the area from Reading north to Allentown/Bethlehem
Eleanor Jean Dillard is a death midwife and home funeral guide. She has been a geriatric care manager for 20 years during which time she has assisted many families with Hospice, dying and after-death care. Helping Families with the home funeral experience has been a natural progression for her.
Anne Jackson is a home funeral guide and comes to this work with over 20 years of interest, research and experience with the after-death vigil. Anne is a fine art and commercial photographer as well as a graphic designer.
610-286-9676 firstname.lastname@example.org Anne serves the areas of Lower Berks County and Northern Chester County.
Cheryl Clark is a mediator, geriatric case manager, a home funeral advocate and the clerk for her Quaker meeting's death and burial committee. She works toward bringing the reverent and time-honored tradition of personal death care back into the heart of faith communities by providing them with training and assistance.
484-369-1744 email@example.com Cheryl serves the areas of Northern Chester County and Lower Montgomery County