November 10, 2014 | Posted in Aging

Our culture has come closer to looking at the threshold of death since the work of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross MD, the advent of hospice organizations, and recently a study indicating the existence of consciousness after death. (  Some families create a three-day vigil and/or home funeral to take part more fully in the time of transition.


Within the fear and ugliness of the physical changes of the body, there can be a deep beauty in the event of a death. Seeing this requires a shift in our thinking and sensing.

When we are open to a sphere of activity taking place that transcends the physical into a different sphere, we can experience death as peaceful.

Rudolf Steiner has described the activity of a person immediately after death and for the subsequent three days as reliving in reverse order the life that has just ended. This theme occurs in some cultures as well.

When those close to the person who has died create this imagination and let the enormity of this event, the life tableau, be held in their own feelings, the effect is that those close to the person often move out of their grief.


Seeking to support the person just deceased,  one focuses one’s attention on the experience of the person who has passed.

A quiet, reverent holding of the space in the room with a person who has died is formed by adjusting one’s feelings to the spiritual event at hand, speaking softly, reading uplifting verses (even if they are not known to the person who died) and sacred books.  Examples are Rumi, Tagore, Dickinson, the Psalms and the gospel of St. John.

Reading is more useful to the dead person than meditating or praying to him or her. This respects the consciousness of the deceased person who is busy reviewing his/her life tableau.

Just as quiet supports the person who has died, a person can enter the room of a sick person with the attitude: I am present; I support you without disturbing you or making this time about my concerns.
Selflessness is required to let a person go if it is their time. Varieties of religions have words which describe supporting the experience of ‘Walking to the Light.’ In grief, a person close to the sick or dying person may pull the dying one back from the threshold with strong wishes that the person not die.

Not many of us are familiar with the stages of dying and death today, because the event is hidden or medicalized. Hospice workers may observe the stages of death.
Fever can occur in a dying person’s last days. A burst of energy or alertness may occur as though dramatic improvement is occurring. This reflects the movements of soul and spirit in the human being.
When the worsening takes hold again, the physical body transforms, as a slight moisture develops on the body. The skin becomes gradually cold to touch. Sometimes the last pulse may be palpable.
In these moments, it is good to watch what a person says, and keep track of final events, as a record of the person’s last days in his/her biography.
After death, if there is no embalming, the appearance of the deceased changes in a consistent pattern:

  • on the first day after death, the dead person may appear to the family as though he/she is breathing; this sense of physical activity immediately after death is universally observed; the etheric body is breathing in these three days, and departs at the end of the three days (see Etheric body);
  • on the second day, there is less sense of activity of the physical body;
  • on the third day after death, the physical body is distinctly changed.

As with a birth, the air of the house is changed around a deceased person, ‘thick, honey-air’ as one expert in home funerals has stated.



A person and his/her family may choose to have an undertaker or a home funeral.  It is possible to have quiet time before the undertaker comes. It is possible to bathe the body before the body goes to the undertaker. Family members commonly express a sense of satisfaction and feeling of privilege in taking on this intimate task.

Just as a home birth is planned, it is possible to plan a home funeral. What room will the body be in? Who will make the casket? Who are the support people helping? How can the home funeral expert be kept informed? As a midwife keeps the phone next to her, so does the home funeral expert.

The profound experience of witnessing a death and being involved in the transition period is for the family like a healing and completing event.

This practice is much more common in the USA than in other countries, which do not consider it essential. The process is usually not witnessed by the family: an incision is made in the neck and groin and blood is massaged out of the body. Pink goo is inserted intravenously to replace the blood. Bowels are vacuumed.

In the opinion of one home funeral expert: ‘it is unnatural, because I believe it is critical for the three days of quiet to be held for the person who has crossed over in a way that the spirit and soul can do its work.’

Two sides of opinion are based on altruism vs how the body will be handled. While eyes can be removed without much disturbance, removal of other organs and full autopsy are a disturbance.

A key question is: what handling of the body respects all the parts of the human being during this time: the physical, the soul, the spiritual?

When we can put death back into normalcy, and create reverence and beautiful surroundings around it, our relationship with it will change. Instead of terror and fear, we will see instead a birth into the spiritual world, and have a healthier way of coping with death.

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Using Rose copper ointment on the chest and solar plexus area (not to be used on broken skin) provides warming and grounding, so that a person is not thrown around emotionally by the experience.

Uriel Rose Copper Ointment for adults apply small amount to chest or mid-abdomen in slow circular motion three times daily as needed. For children, request advice from an anthroposophic healthcare provider.

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Explore the many options of expressing your caring connection with the person who has crossed the threshold of death.

Work within the medical and legal system to assure each person’s wishes are documented in advance of death.

If you are considering a home funeral, check with your home funeral expert and with state laws.

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Final Rights: Reclaiming the American Way of Death,  Slocum, J. and Carlson, L.  Upper Access Inc, 2011.

Grave Matters: A Journey Through the Modern Funeral Industry to a Natural Way of Burial, Harris, M.,  Scribner,  2007.

Living Into Dying: A Journal of Spiritual and Practical Deathcare for Family and Community, Poer, N.,  White Feather Publishing, 2009.


In The Parlor:  The Final Goodbye  Documentary film on home funerals.


Elizabeth Kubler Ross Foundation the work of Elizabeth Kubler Ross.

Funeral Consumers Alliance   a nonprofit organization committed to protecting the rights of consumers to choose how their families or their own funerals are carried out.

Heart2Soul   provides information about funeral planning and traditions, as well as an online tool for connecting with family and friends during the time of one’s death.

National Home Funeral Alliance   offers extensive information for planning home funerals. inspirational poetry. scientific study observes evidence of consciousness after death.

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