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Inviting the family into the crematorium to decorate the cardboard box

Having decoration ceremony and making art supplies available to family and friends to decorate the cardboard casket before cremation.

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Who is your idea designed for and how does it reimagine the end-of-life experience?

Let the family accompany mortal remains after death all the way to the incinerator. Let it be joyful. Decorate the cardboard box with flowers, photos, drawings, favorite sayings, loving farewell wishes. After the cremation, let the family be on hand to gather ashes into a treasured vessel.

I learned this from a fellow student in the Upaya Buddhist Chaplain training program. My friend cared for her mother at the end of life. She wanted to continue accompanying her mother through to the cremation. She asked permission to stay with her mother's body (in its cardboard box) all the way to the conveyor belt to the incinerator. While waiting with her mother's body, she sat in meditation for a bit and then pulled out her magic markers, she drew flowers and song lyrics and joyous and silly sayings all over the cardboard box. She said she experienced such happiness, such love and tenderness. She said she felt like a girl, drawing big flowers and bubbles over the letter "i".  

This is an extension of the family-centered, home based funeral another student in the Upaya training program experimented with. She's a hospice chaplain and invited/encouraged a family she was working with to bathe and anoint the body of a young man. The mom and dad and sisters went out into their garden, gathered up lavender and other herbs, made a soapy wash, and gently and slowly washed his body, tracing his scars, remembering his life, his booboos, his soccer triumphs, his exhilarating bicycle trips. They took a couple of hours to do this. Then they dressed him in his favorite pajamas and tucked the flowers around him. They held a wake for a couple of days and invited his friends and relatives to come, spend time with his body, reminisce, eat. On the third day they buried him in their garden. 

Decorating the cardboard box prior to cremation has the same feeling-tone to it: fearless, loving, joyful, unhurried.


What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

I suppose the first thing would be to find a cremation facility that might be open to having a family come into its incineration area.

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

I'm open to anything.

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