It was my pleasure to attend the Biennial Funeral Consumers Alliance this past weekend in Atlanta, Georgia. It had been several years since I had been out of town, anywhere further than a 4 hour radius from Lawrence, Kansas and over 6 years since I had flown on a plane. I was greeted with that warm, southern hospitality that I had only read about, but had never experienced firsthand.
The Funeral Consumers Alliance is a grassroots non-profit that advocates for consumers rights and interests in the death industry. You know, the people that are looking out for you so you don't end up buying that $10k casket when you don't want to, or get bulldozed into another purchase you're not comfortable with? There are chapters all over the country, comprised of amazing volunteers, working hard to make sure we know that we do indeed have choices and rights.
The whole weekend was full of inspiring conversation, experienced keynote speakers and knowledge I hope to put to use. I had the pleasure of meeting Katrina Spade, the founder of The Urban Death Project. For those of you that do not know about the Urban Death Project, her mission is to provide access to beautiful and meaningful disposition. It was good for me to get out of my sweet little town, which has ample space and where the idea of natural burial is an easy concept to wrap one's head around. However, what about the cities? How do its inhabitants secure an ecological place for to lay rest? Katrina Spade is on it; with her architectural background, she is designing buildings for "recomposition". Please visit her TedX talk to learn more.
Workshops I attended included Home Funeral Guidance & Do's and Don'ts and Journalistic Obituary writing (a dying art), The members of The National Home Funeral Alliance did a fantastic job in their presentations and it was such a pleasure to meet such empathetic and down to earth women. If you have any questions about home funerals (are they legal? is it safe? etc) I highly suggest you browse this website and see for yourself that we do in fact have control over our loved ones once they have passed. And of course, don't hesitate to contact me for further information or with questions.
I also had the pleasure of touring Oakland Cemetery, and despite the temperature reaching 100 degrees that day, it proved itself to be a magical, Victorian garden. In my group, was Heidi Boucher, writer and director of http://intheparlordoc.com, a fantastic and moving documentary regarding the life of home funerals. Heidi has been a home funeral guide for over 25 years, and hearing her experience gave me a lot of hope that we can in fact create awareness and change the course of the funeral "industry", into a more humane and authentic experience.
The conference ended with the lovely Kate Sweeney sharing about her book. American Afterlife: Encounters In The Customs Of Mourning. I am so glad I attended this conference, gained insight into a movement I am passionate about and made the connections that will hopefully last a lifetime.