Report of Meeting, Sept. 21, 2010


·       Marianne Dietzel has a community coffin that needs a new home. It has been used for one home vigil and is available for others. She wants to pass it along as it takes up space in her home.

·       The Star Tribune had a good article about green burials Sept. 18. See

·       For those who have not seen the KSTP feature on Heather Halen and home care of the deceased in relation to the legislation that was passed, you can view it at

·       The September Audubon magazine has a good article on green burials at

·       The Funeral Consumer’s Alliance of Minnesota is having its annual member meeting on Oct. 2 at 900 Mount Curve, Minneapolis, from 10 a.m. to noon. If you are interested, contact Wendy Jerome at

·       Lucy Bassler of Sacred Ceremonies is putting on two workshops in NW Wisconsin. An all-day workshop on Nov. 13 focuses on how to have a home funeral. It costs $150. A half-day workshop on Nov. 14 covers Medicaid law, boundary issues, etc. It costs $75. For more information, go to

·       The National Home Funeral Alliance conference is being held in Boulder, CO. The pre-conference is Oct 7-8, and the regular conference is Oct. 8-9. For more information see

·       The state hospice convention is next March. Fairview Hospice is organizing it and is calling for proposals for workshops.


New Direction for Minnesota Threshold Network (MTN)

Now that the legislation on home care of the deceased has been enacted into law, we are turning our attention to education. We may need further tweaks in the law, however, and we must remain vigilant if other interests propose legislation that undermines Minnesotans’ rights in regard to home death care (HDC).

Our challenge at the moment is how to get the word out about HDC options. In the past year, we have sponsored two movies, and a public forum. Many thanks to Linda Bergh, Marianne Dietzel, and Heather Halen for providing the Sept. 11 HDC training for MTN members.  It revealed that:

·       A need exists for this type of training. It was filled to capacity, and several people from the MTN were on the waiting list.

·       More research needs to be done. Questions surfaced during the training that will require research.

·       People who attended want more training.

·       People who want to be involved in after-death care would like some sort of apprenticeship during which they would accompany someone with more experience in home funerals.


Strategy for Education

We developed a strategy for educating the members of our group, who will then be able to take the training to the greater community. The strategy involves several steps:

Step 1: Membership Training. Heather and David will organize a study group of Undertaken with Love: A Guide to Home Death Care for Congregations and Communities. The course will meet weekly on Tuesday evenings from January 11 to mid-February 2011. Each session will cover a section of Undertaken with Love, available for free download at A hard copy edition is available for $15 from Priority will be given to the MTN members on the Sept. 11 waiting list. Let Heather know if you want to be in this first study group. Her phone number is 612.822.0953.

Step 2: Community Training.  Once people have gone through this training, they could lead other Undertaken with Love study groups at churches, hospices, senior communities, etc.

Step 3: Hospice Training.  A recent presentation at Heartland Hospice, organized by Heartland’s bereavement coordinator Marianne Dietzel, could be used as a template for educating hospice workers about choices for care of the dead. The same speakers (Heather Halen, Carolyn Laine, and Dan McGraw) might be willing to do these presentations. MTN members can coordinate these trainings at their hospices–Fairview, Allina, and Healtheast, and possibly also Methodist (though no members present were connected with Methodist). A hand-out with instructions for carrying home death care is needed for these presentations (perhaps the one promised from the Health Dept.)

Step 4: Professional Training.  MTN can offer training to other professional groups such as coroners/medical examiners, nursing home staffs, doctors, nurses, more hospices, etc. This training would be geared to the specific profession and would focus on the options that are available including care of the body, home vigils and funerals, and green burials. An important element of this training would be on the legal aspects of HDC. Nancy volunteered to start the process of meeting with medical examiners.

In addition to the above steps, Jon Shafer asked for help with a presentation for the Association of Professional Chaplains in Minneapolis Thursday, Feb. 20. Heather volunteered to help. Judy Tills offered to get the forms for proposing a workshop at the state hospice convention in March 2011.


Supporting Families through the Threshold Experience

Some members of the MTN want to support people in caring for their deceased. Lisa and Linda have volunteered to create a list of those who are willing to be “on call”. There would actually be two lists, one internal for those who do not want their names shared publicly and one for those open to having their names be available to the public.

A one-time meeting for people who want to be part of direct support will be held Tuesday, Nov. 9, 7 pm at Heather Halen’s home. Participants can decide how best to help and how to publicize their services. One natural ally would be the Morning Star Singers who sing at the bedsides of those at the threshold.


Research/Resource Needs

Penelope (and Jean) volunteered to research areas where questions arise. This includes questions that come up during the Sept. 11 training:

·       How do you include family members who don’t want to do body care?

·       Who is in charge at end of life? Whom should be notified?

·       What about organ donations and autopsies re. timing and contact with the mortician?

·       Where do you get supplies for body care? (A supply list is included in Undertaken With Love.)

·       How do you get a certificate of transport under all circumstances?

·       How do you deal with LGBT issues, such as access to wishes for vigil and body care and the law regarding who is in charge?

Tim Koch at the Minnesota Department of Health is our go-to person for such questions. The DOH is creating a brochure that should be useful to Minnesotans interested in home care of the deceased.

David Horstmann volunteered to put together a concise document with descriptions of who is needed for various tasks. Linda has list of her own and John’s group has a list. They will provide David with their information.

Larry suggested that the MTN put together a collection of stories about how people used to care for their dead at home. An annotated bibliography could be part of this book, which would be an educational tool. Larry volunteered to talk to his mother and write the first story. While no one volunteered to collect stories, edit them, and get them published, we agreed it is a wonderful idea. Linda said that she would be willing to put those stories on her website.



We briefly discussed finances. Right now, all expenses are covered by members, including room rentals, printing costs, advertisement/announcement fees, etc. We will continue to ask for donations at events to help defray the costs.

The question was raised about charging for consulting services for families that seek assistance with HDC. Given current law, any after-death assistance would have to be free. Pre-death assistance could involve consulting fees.



The next general meeting of the MTN will be Tuesday, Oct. 26 at 7 pm at Nancy and Becky’s home.

We also discussed internet security issues. We will give this further consideration. Computer programmer Vicki Bohan gave some options for hiding our email addresses while allowing people to communicate with us.  As we offer more educational events and groups, we may need something more sophisticated than our current MTN WordPress blog:  If anyone is able to help set up a website and cover the expenses, please let us know.



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