FARMINGTON — Chuck Lakin of Waterville has an unusual hobby: sharing information about do-it-yourself funerals, burial options and building caskets.

Lakin offers the course, Six Feet Under, through Mt. Blue RSD Adult and Community Education and other adult education programs. Each time he comes to Farmington, 20-plus people come to hear more, he said.

“I never pass up the opportunity to talk with anyone interested,” said Lakin, a home funeral educator. “I’m not trying to tell you what to do. I am trying to give you information.”

A Colby College reference librarian for 22 years, Lakin learned about the options following his own experience.

When Lakin’s father died, his mother, Lakin and his siblings were there with him. He died in his home where he had been during his illness. After the death, the funeral director was called and he did what he thought the family wanted, Lakin said.

They came, put him in a body bag and whisked him away. Four days later, the family received his ashes in the mail.

“I hated the disconnect,” Lakin said. “I wanted to be part of the next step.”

A number of years later, he began learning more about preparing for death and funerals. He and three others in Maine are dedicated to sharing information and teaching about death care through Last Things: Alternatives at the End of Life.

Their website,, shares a variety of how-to information on death preparations including filling out our own will and advance directives to options for funerals and burials.

“A lot of people are talking about it,” Lakin said. “There’s clearly more interest.”

There’s an advantage to having everything taken care of by a funeral director, but there is also an advantage in doing it yourself, he said. It can be a very personal, even spiritual experience, he said.

There is no need to involve a funeral director in any part of the process, he said. A home funeral in Maine is legal. A loved one’s body can be kept at home, washed, dressed and a wake or visitation held. Family burial plots on your land are also legal. You can even make your own coffin, he said during a recent class.

A funeral director is needed if the body is embalmed, he said.

“I’m not knocking funeral directors,” he said. “And I’m not telling you to not use one.”

But, the average funeral in the United States can now cost $7,500 plus cemetery expenses including plots and vaults which can amount to another $3,500.

Expense is not the only reason to learn more and make plans for your own end of life. For some, other options provide a way to lessen the environmental impact.

Planning ahead and starting the conversation can be a gift to loved ones, he said. Providing general instructions on what you want done is something they won’t have to deal with.

Some people opt for green cemeteries as a way to lessen the environmental impact of conventional burials. A body is laid to rest using biodegradable materials in a natural setting. There is no vault or toxic embalming. Maine has green cemeteries in Limington and Orrington, he said.

An alternative to traditional cremation also is available in Maine. Instead of using fuels and emitting pollution to cremate the body by flame, a Belfast service offers alkaline hydrolysis cremation, he said. The water process uses less energy and produces less carbon dioxide and other pollutants than flame cremation, Lakin said.

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