I'm Oliver Webber, here with my research assistant, Kaydence Ribetnauer. You may not be able to see us because we're tucked in between these blades of grass, waiting for our next meal to fly in and land on one of them. To nourish our bodies and souls, we ponder leaves. We encourage contemplation... especially in regard to issues that will have to be handled when we become worm grub. We hope to motivate others to thoughtfully cultivate preferences and decisions while still vigorously leaping around. We recommend croaking... using voices to broadcast wishes before it's too late to have a voice in this matter. Other than a sumptuous supply of insects, this is assuredly the most "toad-ally" considerate gift we could leave for our life companions! Don't you agree? We invite you to get your feet wet by joining our pond of pondering pre-planners. Let's make croaking meaningful!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014


JOURNEY JOURNAL... Greenwood Heights, Brooklyn, New York

What's So Hot About A Brooklyn Crematory?

Everything!  Sparked by the progressively escalating rate of cremation, Green-wood Cemetery’s crematorium has become a popular destination when it’s time “to go.”

Located on the grounds of a 478-acre cemetery that has garnered more enthusiastic reviews than the finest of restaurants, it is yet another impressive facility with striking features.  

Sometimes crematoria are situated in remote corners of burial grounds, particularly if their functionality trumps appearance and amenities.  In this case, though, its prominence adjacent to the main office that flanks a towering Gothic entrance gate seems aesthetically warranted.   

Upon entering, the sight of the building’s interior could easily take one’s breath away, which probably should be guarded against, given the nature of the facility.  Since the crematorium also houses modern columbarium niches, sitting areas, and chapels, serene ambience prevails. 

Stained glass provides a backdrop for urns in this section.    

A welcoming foyer abuts office headquarters where urns and other cremation articles are displayed and available for sale.



A lounge outside the chapel areas serves as a gathering place. 

Two chapels are available for brief services prior to the cremation process.  They are next to the room where the facility’s five retorts are located.

The secondary chapel is used for smaller groups.  This one is graced by a captivating glass backdrop festooned with leaf designs that coordinate with leaf configurations on ceiling-level glass windows.

The rate of chapel services here mimics that of weddings at a US Military Academy during the week after graduation.  Time allotments for each group’s services must be limited to fifteen minutes in order to accommodate the number of people who want to use it.  But it’s no surprise that the site is in demand.  The room’s appointments and its pacifying surroundings are modern and attractive.  

Any New Yorkers stoking the fire of desire for cremation may light up when they visit this glowing establishment to kindle the possibilities!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014



It’s a four-letter word that implies rapport rather than dissonance. 
It’s where the heart is.
It’s often a haven… a refuge from worldly chaos.
It’s where enduring memories are made.

HOME is so much more than a building.  Before society relied on hospitals and funeral establishments, it was even a place for birth and death… for penetrating immersion in life’s beginnings and endings.

Through the evolution of generational cycles of resurgence, new forms arise.  In these modern times, a funerary practice of the past has resurfaced as an option in the present.  Although people aren’t necessarily aware of it, they can provide after-death care and conduct commemorations in a residential home or at an alternative site where the decedent had lived.   

State laws determine the extent to which such ministrations and related activities can take place.  Though a few states require services of a funeral director for a limited number of specified tasks, most allow families to determine just how much direct participation suits them.  Generally, they may attend to a few, many, or all details independently and informally amid familiar surroundings.

Advocates of this practice note that participation of relatives and friends, including children, can be a life-changing and enriching experience as natural processes are witnessed and the reality of death is tangibly realized.  By adopting functional roles, a feeling of helplessness can be counteracted.  A sense of purpose as a team member can be therapeutic. 

A wide range of opportunities for involvement makes it possible for people to engage themselves in ways that are most comfortable for them.  It can be a matter of merely keeping a decedent’s body on the premises for a while, sometimes up to three days or for a shorter time, even if death occurred elsewhere.  Participants may simply choose to fill out and file paperwork, namely, for the death certificate that will have to be filed in order to obtain permits.  Or some may become connected to the transactions by writing an obituary or memorial announcement, or by transporting the body to a cemetery or crematory in an ordinary vehicle – usually a van, truck, or sport utility vehicle.  Otherwise, funeral home personnel can be delegated to take care of those matters.

Physical preparation for final disposition can be done in a home, if desired.  This typically entails washing and dressing a body in garments that may have been chosen by the decedent or by the family.  Then dry ice is placed in a pillowcase or towels and positioned underneath and around the body on a bed or in a casket.  Bodies can be maintained this way under cool conditions for about two to three days. A body may be placed on top of flower petals or covered with a sprinkling of them; it may lie on a bed of aromatic cedar chips or other matter deemed significant to the person’s life. 

Some folks want only to spend a few hours with their loved ones, sitting or lying nearby, touching, singing, listening to music, or engaging in a previously shared activity.  Either a private gathering of close family members or an open house visitation with meals and camaraderie among friends may be preferred. In a spirit of community among the mourners, a simple pine or cardboard box may be built and/or decorated (maybe even prior to the event by the person who had been terminally ill), a basic urn may be embellished, or people may create some other type of funerary art.  The interior and exterior of a casket may be adorned with representative thematic elements, mementos, and expressions, or painted in colors that were favorites or those that pertain to an aspect of the individual’s experiences, such as school or team colors.

Personally conducted ceremonies may be held, with poems, stories, songs, rituals, and caring gestures, often exuding originality and reflecting religious, cultural, or pivotal influences. Home-based gatherings can be combined with faith-based rituals conducted in places of worship. 

Sometimes family and friends even handle the final disposition.  This might include digging a grave and placing the body in it, witnessing a cremation, or scattering cremated remains.

So home funerals can have different meanings for different people.  But the approach is governed by flexibility and the varying predispositions of those involved.  Regardless of the degree of participation by family and friends, their initiatives can be jointly intertwined with funeral directors’ services, even utilizing their facilities for some or most of the operations and affairs. 

Proponents of this approach to death management cite many benefits.  Embalming is not done.  More time in the presence of the decedent allows for gradual adjustment to the loss with flexibility for viewing, visitation, and ceremonies.  It is believed that within this context, when all of one’s senses are exposed to death, it is understood better.  That is, the unknown becomes known and the grieving process is facilitated.  Family members have more control than they would otherwise.  Such an intimate act of caring is more personal and inspires a spirit of community. The mood among those gathered can range from tranquil to enlivening and can unfold spontaneously.  In accustomed surroundings, people can express emotions freely and do whatever they want outside the confines of a strict schedule and without feeling self-conscious about being observed or supervised.  Honest discussions with children about death can occur more naturally in these settings.  The home environment promotes uniqueness and offers creative outlets that may be especially cathartic for people who are having difficulty articulating their feelings.  And without employing consumptive funerary services and products, personal ministrations can be economical.

However, the hands-on element of a family-centered approach is not for everyone.  The prospect of being in the perpetual presence of a deceased body could readily be regarded as startling.  Assuming responsibility for handling the details might seem overwhelming.  For future mourners disinclined to choose this alternative avenue, it is always reassuring to know that specialists in the funeral industry are ready and willing to shift into high gear and provide the essential services. 

Otherwise, people who intend to be involved extensively as home-based providers should prepare themselves ahead of time, ideally, through structured workshops so they will know what to expect. 

There has been national recognition of the home funeral reincarnation.  Educational materials are available through organizations that advance the concept via literature, presentations, and in-service education programs. The online Home Funeral Directory has a roster with contact information to access supporters and organizations that provide information and assistance.  “Death care consultants” or “home funeral guides” offer families specific instructions and suggestions through workshops and consultations as well as personal on-site guidance at the time of death.

Though ancestors routinely engaged in such practices, this is not something that can be done at the drop of a hat or, rather, upon the sudden drop of a person.  If interest and inclinations are pre-determined, pathways of preparation will pave the way most optimally to a gratifying and memorable experience.

Certain segments excerpted from 
Pondering Leaves:  Composing and Conveying Your Life Story's Epilogue

Monday, September 1, 2014



“Ha,Ha,Ha,” roared the uproarious funeral director… fantasy or reality?

Recent attendance at a program geared toward funeral directors inspired a few questions after observing the sea of black in which they merged.

Is it possible that conventional attire of these bodily packagers and spirit shepherds might cause some creative observers to yawn?  Is it okay for them to loosen up by shedding their crisp, tragic black demure and manner of dressing… maybe even untying restrictive ties or unbuttoning high-necked blouses a bit, thereby allowing their throats to emit jolly sounds and their facial muscles to form spontaneous and emphatic smiles?  Consider, for example, a group of funeral directors from a particular establishment sponsoring an evening program at a community facility.  Might each of them shun uniformity in favor of individuality… akin to the personalization they promote?  Instead of seeing everyone garbed in a black suit, maybe the non-bereaved public would like to be treated to some eye candy… even if only in shades of blue, gray, and brown!   

Articles periodically inform us that depression can be a pervasive consequence of working in a death environment. It is not easy to compartmentalize one’s thoughts so that the sorrow of clients, aversive images, and hands-on ministrations from a day’s work are not taken home to the dinner table and the bedroom.  Can any prophylactic or remedial measures be adopted to reverse a tendency toward gloomy aberrations?  

How about comedy?  Can funeral directors and staff embrace and convey aspects of humor in their work without defiling the undertones of their missions?  Is it acceptable for them to snicker, giggle, or even laugh?  Not just in the impervious confines of a convention or social milieus, but in their daily dealings with the public outside grief’s abyss.  Not in the face of individuals going through the ordeal of emotional turmoil, of course, but in more benign and widespread domains where they represent the profession. 

Perhaps Caleb Wiley is the maverick who will set the pace for movement toward a more relaxed demeanor. As a funeral director in the rural hamlet of Parkesburg, Pennsylvania, he endorses humor… so much so that his comical declarations via his blog have attracted the attention of multi-thousands of Twitter followers!  He believes in “concise humor to hook readers.” 

This ingenious young man aims to shine light on a dark subject.  By doing so, he hopes people will begin to have conversations about death, realizing that life is precious.  The titillating name for his blog, “Confessions of a Funeral Director,” undoubtedly arouses interest among all but the most staid readers.  Besides jokes and “pimped-out hearses,” reference is made to “death virgins,” defined as people who have little or no experience with death and dying.  In Caleb’s Twitter bio he notes that, “I’m the last person to let you down.”  

Maybe this offbeat Caleb celeb has uncovered palliative possibilities.  At least he has introduced food for thought and a chance for folks to dabble in death whimsy, thereby deciding for themselves if they want to digest the material.  And maybe his brand of humor allows workers in the death care industry to take a break from the daily grind and enjoy a chuckle. 

For added amusement, all ye funeral personnel out there… perhaps you’d like to organize a local support group for yourselves, rather than limiting provision of restorative antidotes to your grieving clients.  Naturally, the tenor for yours would be in blatant contrast to the ones that are so familiar to you as a service you offer.  Give yourselves permission to get crazy.  Call your group a Croaking Club, where you can engage in convivial, even loud, companionship with your comrades.  Go for zany.  Laugh your guts out instead of… well, never mind.   

Maybe a bevy of smiling funeral directors would represent one more catalyst toward changing the face of the death industry in this era of transformation. 


References:   DAILY NEWS - PHILLY.COM      

                        CREMATION SOLUTIONS blog

Additional Resource:    THE FUNERAL LADIES blog