DIY Death

Have you noticed?

We’ve started taking health back into our own hands. If you missed last night’s two-hour TV special, Escape Fire: The Fight To Rescue American Healthcare, try to locate a copy or find out when it will run again. Featuring Dr. Andrew Weil, he said, “I have argued for years that we do not have a health care system in America. We have a disease-management system—one that depends on ruinously expensive drugs and surgeries that treat health conditions after they manifest rather than giving our citizens simple diet, lifestyle and therapeutic tools to keep them healthy. Why? A major culprit is a medical system based on maximizing profits rather than fostering good health.”

Google the CEO earnings of the major insurance companies that insure most of us. They made between 10 and 19 million dollars each in 2011 in compensation. Under new laws going into effect, insurance companies have to pay out 80% of what they charge in actual insurance claims each year. If their gain is more than 20%, the people they insure get a rebate at the end of the year. So companies are raising their rates right now, some exorbitantly. There are states that prevent them from doing so beyond annual cost of living increases. New York is one of them. My state must be one of them also because my monthly rate went down recently. But if you’re in a state that has legislators who are scrambling to protect the obscene profits of insurance companies, your rates probably went up. Such a deal, right?

From our food choices to our active participation in medical decisions, we’re realizing that our bodies are ultimately ours to care for.

So, why would we abandon an intimate claim at death?

Sure, we have to let go eventually (none of us get out of here alive), but we don’t have to hand the rituals of dying over to strangers and pay exorbitant fees to do so (the average funeral costs more than $6,500).

It doesn’t make sense to me that about 70 percent of American deaths are handled by the paid staff of hospitals, nursing homes, and funeral parlors. The bodies of our loved ones are prepared for burial (often with toxic chemicals) by people who did not know—much less love—the person who died. Fifty and 60 years ago, my mother was a member of a group of volunteer women in the community who “dressed the dead.” Hair was fixed, clothing altered, and a loved one put to rest in their finest. The women also managed the flowers, driving them from the church to the cemetery, and afterward, orchestrated a meal. Now, those details are taken care of by people who didn’t know the deceased or the grieving family.

That’s why I’m paying attention to an emerging trend.

Alongside health consciousness, there is a re-awakening of our connection to the process of passing, and this final act is becoming more hands-on.

Am I making you cringe?

Stay with me. This is valuable stuff.

While it’s not exactly a welcomed discussion, especially when the event seems impossibly far away, it is one that can create a greater sense of comfort, connection, and preparedness when the time comes.

“A growing group of Americans are returning to a more hands-on, no-frills experience of death,” reports the Huffington Post. “In the world of ‘do it yourself’ funerals, freezer packs are used in lieu of embalming, unvarnished wooden boxes replace ornate caskets, viewings are in living rooms and, in some cases, burials happen in backyards.”

Elizabeth Knox, founder of a home funeral resource organization called Crossings and president of the National Home Funeral Alliance, offers nationwide trainings on do-it-yourself funerals and has written A Manual for Home Funeral Care, which can be downloaded for free on her website.

“There are people who get it and think it’s a great idea. And there are people who have been so indoctrinated to think a different way, a less hands-on way, that they can’t imagine anything else,” she says.


Photo by Steve Jurvetson (CC-BY-2.0) via Wikimedia Commons

Continue reading

  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    We are fortunate here to have a Green Burial Cemetery that is part of a county land trust purchase. No embalming, concrete vaults and the like. Same day burials have grown in popularity among people who want out of the funeral set up that many people either choose or think they have no other options. Most families plant a tree of their choosing to mark the site and add back to the lovely natural landscape of the land trust. The setting is beautiful, natural and peaceful.

  2. Gail Taylor says:

    Very wise train of thought. Seems like it today’s society you’re not allowed to do anything yourself anymore so businesses can charge you an arm and a leg to do the same thing. Sometimes they even try to keep you from doing it yourself to prevent profit loss. I recently read an article about some monks who were hand making plain coffins to help the poor and they were sued by local funeral homes.

  3. Ashley Tracy says:

    What a WONDERFUL read! So well written; such an important message.

    As a nurse/women’s health nurse practitioner myself, I have seen people pass multiple times, both peacefully and fretfully. I truly believe what you said about people wanting to take back the experience of death and make it their own (I also believe this about the other end of life – birth!). It doesn’t have to be a terribly traumatic experience in a hospital with tubes in every orifice surrounded by strangers. [As a side note – hospice is a GREAT resource to aid people and their families in creating a comfortable transition in surroundings of their choice.] I feel that this “spirit tree” and “bios urn” could be a great way to assist in the grieving process, as you noted, and to provide a continued source of comfort, as trees do even when there is not a connection to a dead loved one. I am in love with this idea.

    Thank you so much for the informative and stimulating read!

  4. LA Brown says:

    thank you for sharing this information with us. It is a difficult subject but one that we must all acknowledge at some timem.

  5. Chrissy says:

    I appreciate this train of thought as well. I work in a nursing home and it’s not all gloom and doom. I feel it’s a privilege to be with a resident and their family at the time of their passing. It’s never easy, but it is special.

  6. Katie says:

    I hate it that you can have something happen to you, not be of the right mind to make decisions, and the rule would be to do everything to keep you alive indefinitely . No matter what the cost. Unless you file a specific writ to not allow constant resuscitation . Your entire life savings can be spent, and debt can be incurred . There seems to be no common sense anymore in this profit motivated enterprise.

    I recently found out we could have a home burial here in our area, Ca. That you could be buried in a pine box. At least this is what I understand. Sorry not to have specific research to quote.

  7. Pingback: Driving Miss Norma | Raising Jane Journal

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    I LOVE old Red Barns! Simple as that!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Girl Rising—it’s here!

News flash!

In October, I wrote about a must-see movie in the works …

Remember? It’s called Girl Rising.


The title grabbed me right from the get-go, and the more I learned about it, the more hooked I became. It’ll be an experience that none of us will want to miss.

Girl Rising was created by the 10×10 global action campaign for girls’ education in order to share the extraordinary stories of 10 girls from 10 countries who are fighting to overcome impossible odds on the road to realizing their dreams of education.

Continue reading

  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    This will be a powerful presentation and hopefully empower other women as well!!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

My Strange Grandfather


I love that word. Repurposing.

I could ramble on …

(well, I think I have over the years),

sharing how many divine objets de junk

I’ve repurposed into things pretty, functional, and simply, way cool.

From cowboy boot flower pots and purses to t-shirt rugs and gelatin mold wall sconces,

repurposing is a process that not only births the banal anew,

it also satisfies a deep craving we have for frugality and make-do.

But, instead of jabbering on about my love of junk all day,

I want to share with you another little treasure I found.

(I admit, it’s brand new. But it’s ABOUT junk.)

I’m smitten with a little film that was artfully animated by a Russian cinematography student named Dina Velikovskaya.

Dina’s images express the junker’s passion eloquently,

without uttering one. single. word.

All it takes is less than 9 minutes to experience My Strange Grandfather:

My Strange Grandfather from Dina Velikovskaya on Vimeo.




  1. CJ Armstrong says:

    What a treasure! My hubby . . . also a “junker extraordinaire” watched this with me. It was a fun and delightful way to start the day! Very creative! Loved it!

  2. Connie Tilley says:

    what a cute little film. thanks for sharing that with all of your readers.

  3. Deb says:

    I was touched by this. I have some friends and even myself that are “Junksters” Beautiful. I have a large garden that I display my treasures in. Thanks for sharing

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Bee My Cure

Spring allergy season may seem like a distant glimmer on the horizon, especially if there’s still snow outside your window.

But, if you suffer from seasonal sniffles, you can actually start preparing now for a more peaceful encounter with pollen.


Before the world bursts into bloom and sends you sniffling your way to the tissue box, be sweet to yourself and start indulging in a daily dose of honey.


Pesky (and sometimes paralyzing) pollen allergies arise because of continuous over-exposure to the same plants. When honey bees collect pollen from the flowers of these plants, trace amounts of the pollen ends up in the honey that the bees create.


So, when you eat honey that is produced in your local area, you consume tiny bits of the very pollen that causes problems. In this way, your body becomes accustomed to dealing with it gradually, which boosts immunity.

Continue reading

  1. Terry Steinmetz says:

    I know this works from personal experience, too. I can breathe all through the allergy seasons. And who doesn’t love the taste of honey?

  2. Winnie Nielsen says:

    Here in Florida, we are in the thick of pollen season and I have been increasingly reactive over the past few years. My Dad used to eat honey with honey comb every morning on his cereal for help with allergies. We all thought he was just using that as an excuse because he liked honey but your article here makes me wonder. Would it still help to eat honey every day if you are already in the throes of pollen and sniffling away? I have a jar of honey from a local watermelon grower just sitting in my cabinet. I think I will just open her up and see if things get better over the next year? It can’t hurt.

  3. Kendra P. Chubbuck says:

    I’m a beekeeper! Thank you. Great article!

  4. Laurie Dimino says:

    No doubt in my mind that this does indeed work!
    What a great tip to share for those who weren’t aware of this.
    Thank you!

  5. Marie VanGinkel says:

    My husband and I both have developed allergies since we moved to Prescott Valley, Arizona. As everyone we have talked to has said the same thing. We have a local Honeyman store here in Arizona. He carries all kinds of honey. Don’t know which kind to buy. Is there anybody out here that uses honey for allergies problems in the state of Arizona? Allergies here are at very high levels.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Bee My Honey

Let’s bee honest …

the prospect of beekeeping can bee a bit daunting.

The buzzing intimidates some would-bee keepers right from the get-go.

And the stinging?

Well, let’s not even go there.

The point is—how does an aspiring apiarist (fancy synonym for beekeeper) dive into owning her own hive?

Good news: it’s easier than ever.

If you’ve spent these long winter months dreaming of harvesting your own honey (how sweet would that bee?), then look no further than Williams Sonoma …

Continue reading

  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    I saw this set up in the last catalogue from Williams Sonoma and thought it was just so beautiful. Bees seem a bit daunting as they have a lot of issues to keep them healthy, but I love the see hives all set out in big fields of produce in the countryside. And perhaps I need to read more and get on board enjoying their wonderful work to help with allergies?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Crochet Play

Imagine topsy-turvy terrain in whimsical worlds bursting with bright color …

Dr. Seuss?

Oh, the Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss

You’re getting warm.

But, the terrain I’m talking about is not confined to the two-dimensional plane of a page.

Japanese fiber artist Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam has crocheted—

yes, crocheted—

a series of sublime Seuss-like landscapes into reality.

Takino Suzuran National Park, Hokkaido, Japan (Photo by Charles MacAdam)

And, as if that feat isn’t fabulous enough …

MacAdam’s sculptures are for touching,


dangling …

That’s right,

these creations are for kids to climb on.

Continue reading

  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    These networks of colors are wonderful! What inspiring practical art for all ages to enjoy. The last photo feels like a huge quilt on a bed. This is really amazing and thanks for sharing!

  2. Terry Steinmetz says:

    I want to play too!!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *