Originally Published: The New Republic • June 25, 2015
“We didn’t have to get in the car, go to the [funeral parlor] in our fancy clothes, and have our grief in the packaged amount of time,” said Beth Barbeau, 52, one of the death midwife’s clients, who cared for her dead mother, Sharon Bailey, at home for two and a half days before she was cremated in a cardboard casket that Barbeau’s young sons decorated. “We could have it on our own terms… At midnight, we could go sit with [the corpse] with a cup of tea in the corner in the dark.”
Eventually, Barbeau said, the body’s physical decline served as a proxy for the fact that her mother was truly gone. Late on the second day, her mom’s mouth sagged open a little, presumably because the muscles were relaxing as the body passed out of rigor mortis. The body seemed settled, and smaller somehow, and whatever sense Barbeau had had of her mother’s spirit seemed truly gone. “I realized that I would never be done saying goodbye to my mom, but I also realized that I was done enough,” she said.