Traditional ceremonies support choice at a tough time
YOU hear the phrase "dying with dignity" a lot but it's one that a Belligen couple believe in so strongly that they are aiming to bring back traditional funerals that were the norm a 100 years ago.
Leonie Watson and her husband Chuck Reimal are death doulas - people who work with the dying and their loved ones both before and after death.
"Leonie and I have been professional community service workers for most of our adult lives," Chuck said.
"We have always been drawn to spend our efforts on the most vulnerable segments of our society.
"When we began in the funeral industry, we recognised that a deceased loved one had arrived at their most vulnerable time of life since their birth into this world. We immediately recognised the sacred trust that had been bestowed upon us for their care and the care of their family through this difficult time.
"Our philosophy is to allow families to reclaim the rightful control of the dying process and care of the deceased. Dying and death is a natural process. Most families aren't even aware they can be legally involved in the care of their loved one. We believe in the gentle honouring that is inherent in the dying process and in learning to embrace it as a natural part of life."
Though the pair have been running their business Barefoot Funerals for the past two years Leonie, a counsellor, art therapist and registered celebrant, said the idea for the business came five or six years ago when a friend asked her to help allow her care for her dying teen-aged son at home. At the same time her own father was dying in hospital and the contrast stuck with her.
Leonie, who started looking after the dying 28 years ago in San Francisco, said while she had nothing against the modern funeral industry at all, their business was about providing more choice.
In the US she worked with a team of nurses helping dying people record their stories and wishes and liaising with the family. She also lived with a Native American woman during her stay there, an experience that fuelled her love of rituals and ceremony, a love that she pours into her funerals (and weddings).
She said she saw it as honour to be involved both in helping support the dying and their family and honouring them after death.
"We support people who wish to keep their beloved at home," Leonie explained.
"This is a time honoured and traditional practice that allows humans to process their grief and gently come to terms with the changing nature of their relationship to the deceased. We also support more modern choices in after death care."
For more details about Chuck and Leonie, go barefootfunerals.com.