Frequently Asked Questions

Coronavirus Information:

For the past few weeks, my posse of Piedmont death care professionals has worked diligently on getting this document ready for the public eye.  

We hope the day never comes when you actually find yourself having to use it.  But if you do, know that you have it within yourself to do the needful.  And this guide will help you every step of the way.

May we all be given strength while finding ways to endure these unprecedented times.

Download PDF: Care for Those Who Die at Home in Pandemic Times

Find answers to frequently asked questions here. If you don’t find the answer you’re looking for, then please visit the contact page to send me a message.

Q: Is it actually legal to keep a dead body in your home?

Yes, it is legal to keep a dead body in your home. In all fifty (50) states, home funerals are legal.

Q: Am I not required to use a funeral home?

No, you are not required by law to use a funeral home. In only 9 states is it required by law to use the services of a funeral director. This is either to help with paperwork or transportation, or to be a witness at the final disposition of the body. These states are: Connecticut, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, New Jersey, and New York.

Q: What about embalming?

Embalming is not required in any state! I often hear from the puzzled public that they believe this is a requirement because a body may “turn” or “smell.” Well, the truth is that we use dry ice, “Techni-Ice,” or even air conditioning to keep the body cool while it lays in state at the home. We also use essential oils which create a beautiful and calming fragrance.

Q: If you bury me in the ground, won’t wild animals come dig up my body?

This is the myth that will not die! Wild animals such as wolves or bears prefer and only go after FRESH meat, and a 1-3 day-old human corpse buried in the ground is not considered fresh. A survey among all green cemetery owners revealed that not once had a wild animal ever tampered with a grave at their cemetery.

Q: I thought cremation was a green alternative. What’s the real impact of cremation?

Cremation requires a LOT of energy and releases toxins (think the mercury in your teeth fillings for one) into the atmosphere. Cremation leaves a huge carbon footprint. It is not ideal for all the reasons you know, but a bigger issue is that it is not complete - it leaves 7-10 pounds of inert, useless, dense bone fragments that have no place to go. We can't keep them on our mantles forever. They are killing fragile plants in parks and forests when scattered. We Americans are guilty of 338 tons of cremains wildcat scattering throughout the world every year. Burial without metal urns or concrete or any other impediments in a green cemetery is the least of all evils.

Q: Can I pick up the body of my loved one from a hospital or nursing home after they die and bring them back home for a home funeral?

This is really one of the greatest challenges faced by home funeral familes, and will depend on several things.   One matter a facility usually talks about is their "policy" about the release of dead bodies.  They seem to have "policies" about everything, but are often unaware of the fact that they really have no LEGAL right to interfere with the release of a body to kin except in the few states that prohibit it.  It always strikes me as extremely odd that hospitals send newborn babies off without knowing a thing about their future care, but will tell you they are "liable" for the dead person because of possible health or safety risks.  BUT THE PERSON IS ALREADY DEAD!  Let me quote from the National Home Funeral Alliance book, "Building Bridges along the Death Care Continuum:"

         "Most existing policies circumvent the legal responsibility of people charged with custody and control, bypassing their authority and creating a de facto agreement to hire a professional at their own expense without informed consent.  What it does at a deeper level is strip the family of their choice, reinforcing the cultural stereotype that every mourner is incapable of managing his or her own affairs."

I think it is best to find and talk to the person in charge of policies and procedures dealing with the release of bodies.   AHEAD OF TIME.  Let them know about your wishes in advance so they have time to understand what it is you are asking.  Hopefully, when you can confirm your right to have the body released to you according to the specific statutes that give next-of-kin the right to custody and control of the body in your state, the release will be less complicated.  

Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, an institution is going to be difficult and unrelenting.  You may have to call on the services of a home funeral-friendly funeral home to help with transport of the body to your house.  

Q: Will green burial hurt water quality?

No.  Green cemeteries do not have run-off from fertilizers, pesticides, spilled fuels or toxins.   Conventional cemeteries in the United States take up an estimated one million acres of land, which are constantly being mowed and sprayed with herbicides and pesticides.  And buried underneath those manicured lawns are:

  • 800,000 gallons of formaldehyde (a known carcinogen)...EACH YEAR
  • 115 million tons of steel
  • 2.3 billion tons of concrete
  • 4 million acres of forest (wood)

            (Source:  Green Burial Council)