By Julie Hawley

Fresh flowers have been used to celebrate the times of our lives for generations. From the birth of a baby, to dance recitals, prom, weddings, and funerals; flowers commemorate important passages of our lives.

Flowers played a starring role at my brother’s in-home funeral this past weekend at Nevada City, California. He and his wife had planned a home funeral before he died. They enlisted the help of Full Circle Living and Dying Collective, a group of midwives who provide home death care.

The moment after he died, flowers started arriving at their home. By the time my sister and her family and Pete and I arrived 24 hours later, the house was brimming with beautiful fresh flower arrangements of all kinds.

The midwives helped my brother’s wife prepare his body for two days of lying in honor in the home. He was beautifully dressed in a plain white linen tunic and pants and placed on a blue cloth in a woven basket. The midwives made sure the dry ice was replaced each night to keep the remains cool.

Some of these details may seem unusual, indeed it was my first experience with a home funeral, yet the days spent in their home provided an intimate, powerful emotional connection to my brother, his family and others who loved him. We cried, laughed, shared stories, hugged each other and toasted my brother. It was an experience I will always cherish.

On the third day there were no more visitors. Those of us who were left gathered most of the flower arrangements onto the kitchen island and started cutting the heads off and putting them into bowls. Then we carried the bowls into his room and started placing flower heads on and around him in the basket. We tucked foot-long sprigs of lavender and yew all around his body.

After all our words and songs were finished, his remains were wrapped in a shroud and secured with ribbons. Finally, he was covered with rose petals. His two sons and four family friends carried him out to the vehicle for the ride to a crematorium.

The beauty of all the fresh flowers made for a lovely ceremony. Sending the flowers off with the body was a healing ritual that will forever bring peace to my mind through this passage of life.

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