The passing of a loved one is so difficult and planning a funeral can often make the grief even more intense. When one mother lost her daughter to cancer, she decided to plan a very nontraditional funeral that honored and celebrated her in a very special way. Lucia Maya’s daughter, Elizabeth, became ill while she was at college, calling her mom complaining of chest pains and swelling.
Lucia explained: “She called me one day in tears because she was in a lot of pain. She wasn’t one to cry or complain. I said, ‘OK, something is clearly wrong.’”
Lucia took Elizabeth to the doctor, where they discovered a large tumor in her chest and diagnosed her with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Elizabeth began treatment of chemotherapy immediately and, after six rounds, beat the disease. It returned, however, spreading to her brain.
Faced with this sad news, Lucia knew she had to prepare herself for her daughter’s death and ultimately decided on a home funeral. Joanne Cacciatore, a research professor at Arizona State University who studies traumatic death, told Upworthy: “A home funeral often involves bypassing the usual embalming process, instead opting for more gentle methods of preserving the body: keeping it cool with dry ice and bathing it, for example. Some families will hold a viewing at home before sending the body off to be prepared for a traditional burial or cremated.”
Joanne further noted that this practice often “has a therapeutic effect, in that when the person you love has died, and they’re at home, you can check in with that reality as often as you need. You can go in that room, you can sit in that room 24 hours a day for three or four days, and you can watch their body, and see that they’re not there.”
Lucia dressed Elizabeth and prepared her, feeling a sense of peace with the matter, as she explained: “What was so lovely was that we knew there was no rush to call the funeral home to come pick up her body. We knew that we had time.”
The process was unconventional but also therapeutic for Lucia and other family members, as they were able to care for Elizabeth even in her passing. She explained: “It felt so healing to be able to do those last things to take care of her. To be the one to bathe her, gently, to be the last one to dress her, to cover her with these beautiful silks that I know she would have loved — it would have felt very, very strange to send her body off and have some strangers doing those things for her, no matter how loving and caring they might have been.”
Lucia provides Reiki sessions to help heal others, as her website explains: “Lucia loves working with people during times of transition and transformation in their lives, especially when dealing with grief and loss. The death of her older daughter Elizabeth in 2012 brought another layer of transformation and depth to her work, cracking open her heart and connecting her even more deeply with those in the other worlds.”