Introducing my new business model:
By Donation/Pay As You Can.
Like you, I have been following the road that the COVID-19 pandemic is taking to my door. When I am not worrying about my family (my mom is 89 and I can't visit her because a family member I live with has had a fever for five days) I am worrying about disabled folks and elders in skilled nursing facilities, and the families of prison inmates, whose anxiety I can hardly fathom. We are seeing news photos of long lines of trucks in Italy where the army has been called in to help move and bury coffins. We are trying to wrap our minds around a lot of death at a time when it is smarter not to gather with others. We are going to have to learn how to grieve without the comfort of hearing the sigh of the person sitting next to us in the pew. I am an end-of-life navigator, a funeral celebrant, a grieving coach. I will spare you the stark realities my mind wanders through as I begin to process in advance and prepare myself for the work ahead.
I have been learning as much as I can about safety for Last Responders. I have been listening to webinars on best practices for shrouding, for home funerals, and for natural burial in the midst of a pandemic. I have been boning up on how to conduct a virtual funeral service that helps people feel they are being together. The bottom line is that this is more death than we have managed in our own lifetimes, but human beings have done this work before. I learned today that in 1349 over a three month period of plague, 800 people died every day in Paris. Which tells me we have old knowledge to bring forward as well as new things to learn.
In the midst of all the hand washing, I've been thinking of how to manage the part about death being my livelihood. There could be a lot of work, but every one is out of work. I have followed the funeral home industry coming to terms with the fact that “58% of Americans have less than $1000 in savings”. They are working on business models that roll people's life insurance into their funeral costs, talking about how to boost marketing. It is hard to describe how distasteful some of their planning seems to me, personally. I mean, I get it, they have businesses to run and are looking at a bump in volume in a tanked economy, and they'll be busy but there are huge personal health risks at the same time. Plus as we know, people who work in end-of-life and after-death care also have families and will be experiencing loss. So, um, yeah… this is all a lot to take in.
Back to the livelihood question. I made a decision today, based on my commitment to radical kinship. From now until some further development changes my thinking, my work as an end-of-life navigator, funeral celebrant, and grieving coach will be offered on a pay-what-you-can donation basis. Zero has an honored place in this business model. Barter is always an option. I am going to stick a donate button on my website some place, and on one of my facebook pages. But I am not going to 'charge' a fee for my services.
I can no longer quantify what this work requires of me in a dollar value. Radical kinship, the idea that we are all relations and worthy of respect, is always a trust exercise. Bringing the trust exercise to my personal economy just seems like the right thing to do at the moment. I am not wealthy, we get by paycheck to paycheck like most American households. And like most households, in hard times having a little financial leeway can make a really big difference. It makes the most sense to set aside my sliding fee scale for a pay-what-you-can practice.
Meanwhile, I'll be washing my hands and gargling, helping the mask-making efforts however I can, and connecting with people as authentically as possible as we navigate being distant for safety. My husband played the monthly poker game over Zoom this evening. A friend's live YouTube concert was quite well attended, though I don't know if enough folks got some coin into the tip jar. Every little bit helps.
I started this letter in the car this afternoon, after the concert. A quick dip into the valley and back to enjoy the last snow, with no place to go but home again. So many of the people I know work in the gig economy. Teachers, freelancers, artists and performers whose calendars have all been cancelled. All of us wondering and retooling how we'll get by in a world where people cannot closely gather. As I drove back up the hill I started singing 'We Shall Overcome' at the top of my lungs. I want to learn it on the ukulele and give it some new verses. Because deep in my heart, I do believe, that we shall overcome some day. And as Pete Seeger's friendly ghost reminded me, the next verse starts, “We'll walk hand in hand.”
Safe travels and good health friends. Stay in touch. ~ Dina