Kato Wittich reached out to Sacred Crossings for help in honoring her friend Regine, a passionate environmental activist who loved the ocean. I recommended a home funeral followed by a sea burial which is a popular combination with those wishing to leave a green final footprint.
This post is Kato’s testimonial which sums up beautifully the healing benefits of a home funeral and the simple beauty of a full body sea burial.
Rest in Peace sweet Regine!
IMAGE OF REGINE …
When my sisterfriend Regine found out that her cancer had returned and was widespread, it was her strong desire to have her body sit for three days in her living room before having an ecological burial. She was from Belgium, where old customs still can be followed, and when her father died, her family had kept him in the house for a several day vigil. So unlike most of us, she had had the powerful and beautiful experience of watching the body of a dead beloved change until it was clear there was no one in it any more, before saying goodbye to it. She wanted that journey for her husband and two boys and I was determined that if I could not help her live, I would help her die the way she wanted to.
IMAGE OF REGINE WITH HER TWO SONS KISSING HER LAUGHING
– Regine with sons Elliot and Jamie
I knew that it was possible in California to keep a body on dry ice in the house, but I did not know how to go about it. Regine’s journey was very rapid, from suspicion of cancer recurrence to death was a little over three months, and we really did not know that death was close until two weeks before she died. It was overwhelming to ride the waves of treatment options and of possible outcomes, and there was little time for anything else, but as it started to be clear that there was little time left I began to ask around about death midwifes and funeral homes that did ecological burials.
IMAGE OF REGINE ON HER DEATH BED
I have such immense gratitude that we found Olivia and Sacred Crossings right away. I do not want to imagine what the journey would have been like without her deep and caring support and the amazing team and services that are offered by Sacred Crossings. They organized a death midwife to bring dry ice daily and help us prepare for keeping Regine’s body in the living room, wrapped in a beautiful linen shroud, covered in flowers, with an open house vigil every day so friends and family could visit to say goodbye. They offered lots of support for ritual and spiritual guidance, much of which we did not need, but it was wonderful to have the possibility.
On the first day, we all congregated around her body a great deal. We washed it, we touched it, we talked to her. Her husband and grown sons would come and go throughout the day, stopping to touch her, to sit and look at her, to talk to her, to feel her presence and her absence as her body got colder. We opened the house for hours every afternoon for friends to come and visit, to sit with her, to weep, to touch her, to laugh and share stories.
IMAGE OF FRIENDS AROUND THE VIGIL BED
The second day, she started to look less like Regine as her features settled and became more sunken. We still sat with her and touched her, but not as much. Her sons and husband still came and went, still stroked her hair, but only a little. Friends and family came and went. She remained a presence but no longer the center. There was more laughter and less weeping. I noticed that I was the only one touching her much. Her sons were turning toward their own lives, going surfing, cooking joyfully, spending time together before they would return to their lives. They would come and go, look at her, touch her feet through the shroud, but she no longer was a magnet. She also was not something to avoid. It was unavoidable.
Here she was in the living room dead, though inside each of us she was so alive. She no longer was in her body, now she existed in us.
The final celebration at the end of the vigil was beautiful, a room crowded with people who loved her, surrounding her body, celebrating her life. We were dancing with the Regine inside of us, witnessed perhaps by the body covered in flowers on her bier. When Sacred Crossings came in the morning to take her to cold storage for the week that her weighted shroud was being made, we were able to carry her out of the house and into the waiting van with a readiness, instead of a holding on. It was hard to watch the van pull away, but oh so much easier than if we had not just had our fill of loving her body as it emptied out.
IMAGE OF BOAT & shroUD HERE
Then Sacred Crossings made it possible for Regine to have a full body burial in the beloved sea that was her second home. I had read to her that option from the list of ecological burials, and her eyes lit up and began to sparkle with delight. There was nothing she loved more than plunging into a cold and lively ocean, except maybe dancing, oh and cooking and loving and caring for her husband and her beautiful sons. She loved life with such a passion, but she also saw dying as going in to the light, and she was excited to find out what that would be like. She loved her body too, and did not want it buried or burned. That she could sink to the bottom of the ocean in her sailcloth shroud and become part of the vast expanse of the sea was for her an enormous joy, as it continues to be for all of us, who can visit her every time we go to the shore!
SWITCH THIS NEXT PHOTO FOR THE ONE OF EVERYONE ON DECK
Sacred Crossings did the nearly impossible in this time of pandemic and constantly shifting obstacles. They found the right boat, the right captain, provided the expert who made the weighted sailcloth shroud. Olivia accompanied us to sea and participated in our simple ritual. We were lucky to have a marvelous singer, Odeya Nini, who sang for Regine while she was dying and again during the vigil and then sang her into the ocean. It was absolutely beautiful and exactly as Regine would have wanted it.
The extraordinary thing was how ready we all were for Regine’s body to leave us. Not that we were ready to lose her, but because of the home vigil and funeral, letting go of her body became easy. We had already journeyed with her until it was clear no part of her was still attached to her beautiful but empty shell. This process was so profound and so important for her family and friends, and it was Regine in her wisdom and her deep loving nature who provided it for us.
SWITCH IMAGE BELOW WITH ONE OF husband JAMIE, Elliot & Theodore ON DECK –
I have been a death companion in far too many deaths of beloveds, and every time there was something wrenched and agonizing in the departure, as their bodies were taken away long before we were ready to separate. Regine’s choice to be in the house, in the center of the house, as her body started to change, gave us the opportunity to heal in ways that do not happen when the process is too fast.
In the evening after her beautiful sea burial we all gathered on her favorite beach and danced to the sunset in her honor – a glorious end to a glorious life.
Words will never express the gratitude Regine’s family and friends all hold toward Sacred Crossings for giving Regine what she yearned for, an exit that was befitting the profound and joyful being that she was. I know now how I want my final journey to be, and I look forward some day to joining Regine in the vast and beautiful sea.
IMAGE OF FRIENDS DANCING IN THE SUNSET
In our death avoidant culture, we rarely plan for what is one of the most important journeys of our life, our death. It is as if we believe that as long as we don’t talk about it, it won’t happen. It will. For all of us. Dying, even under the hardest of circumstances, is a profound and important part of living. It can be joyful and beautiful for the one who is dying, and for everyone who loves them. So can the voyage of mourning and celebration that begins with death.
Thank you Kato for bringing this healing opportunity to Regine’s family, it was honor to be of service.
If you would like to learn more about home funerals or sea burials, please visit our website: sacredcrossingsfuneralhome.com
IMAGE OF FLOWERS ON THE WATER