Financial Officer: Suzanne Wouk
Arnold Leff, M.D.
Ralph Potkin, M.D.
Joshua Schiffman, M.D.
Valerie Leveroni Corral
Design for Dying Project
Non-profit 501(c) Corporation
849 Almar Street #C317
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
A home care experience
I had completed the
four-month vigil at
the Santa Cruz home of my beloved friend.“L” was a single mother of
a 16-year-old girl. More than 30 volunteers organized as a team to
meet the ongoing needs that facing death requires. On a summer
morning, “L” died peacefully.
I had prepared her
body for honoring;
washing, anointing and dressing her.
I was grateful for many things. I was
grateful that we could carry out her wish
to die at home surrounded by family and friends. I was grateful that
her daughter’s loving touch and last utterance of love hung in the
room as the thread to carry “L” into what lay beyond.
After some time a
hospice worker arrived, she stood quietly looking at L’s adorned
body, cloaked in red silk, haloed by flowers, candles burning.
After a long
silence, she spoke, “I haven’t seen anything like this since I was
in India.This is beautiful.”
|Since 1993 at our collective,
Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana
witnessed the death of at least one
member a month from terminal illness.
Some of our patients were alone and
without resources. In these cases, and
whenever asked, other WAMM members
organized into caregiver teams
to help our friends greet death with as
comfortable and noble a transition as
We have designed Raha Kudo, meaning
the pathway to heaven, as a comprehensive
501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
Our extraordinary approach combines
all aspects of care and support
within a loving environment.
Information gained is organized and
presented for the enrichment of the dying,
their loved ones and for the benefit
of others and our caregivers.
Our mission sets Raha Kudo apart
from other human service organizations.
Our dedication to education and research
is crucial in developing a depth
of care and understanding essential in
the exploration of alternatives during
Our aim at Raha Kudo, Design for
Dying Project is to offer help when
death approaches, assisting in all aspects
that may arise; providing a
personalized model of support, including
organizing schedules, 24-hour care,
and identifying and sharing the balance
Raha Kudo is made up of a sensitive,
compassionate team to fill in the gaps
of care as needed.
We see ourselves as midwives to the
dying, extending a choice for deinstitutionalization
at this critical time of
life, helping people stay in their own
homes as they prepare for what lay
Planning for a burial
If a loved one is in a hospital, health care facility, or
nursing home, you can expect that the care facility will call the preferred
mortuary (but only if it has been informed beforehand about the deceased
preferred mortuary!). A vehicle will be dispatched within an hour or so for
transport of the body to the mortuary unless arrangements are made otherwise.
What is a mortuary? A morgue or mortuary is
a building or room (as in a hospital) used for the storage of human remains
awaiting identification, or removal for
or some other
post-death ritual. Bodies are usually
refrigerated to avoid
Generally mortuaries will call the next of kin to make an
appointment. Sometimes this call is made the next day if the death has occurred
in the middle of the night.
If a loved one dies at home
The next of kind has up to two days to contact the
preferred mortuary. He or she can also call right away and ask the mortuary to
come at the most convenient time. Families often like to take some time to
transition or to prepare the body in the privacy of their own home. It is worth
noting that extra charges apply for mortuary service on weekends or after normal
During the appointment the next of kin will need to fill out papers and make
decisions. These could include, but are not limited to: The mortuary needs to
get a doctor's signature on the death certificate, the authority to release the
body from the hospital (this can also be verbal), additional information for the
death certificate. The family decision as to the number of death certificates
needed. They cost approx. 20.00 from the Health Department. Note that a
certified copy is needed for each bank account, insurance policy, pension fund
etc. and a mortuary contract which states the mortuary fees.
Simple Direct Burial
If the family has chosen a simple direct burial this probably means a simple,
cloth-covered wooden casket. Arrangements must be made with a cemetery and a
separate contract negotiated with them. A representative from the mortuary will
witness the interment at the cemetery. The family can choose to be present or
If direct cremation has been chosen, all the above paperwork must be prepared
except the cemetery contract plus the following: A. a declaration of disposition
of cremated remains. This document, required by law, states what the final
disposition will be: mortuary scatter, family scatter or interment. B. Cremation
Document. This three part form, also required by law, gives the authority to
cremate the body, acknowledges that cremation is irreversible and describes the
merchandise that will be used. Most packages include a simple container for
cremation. The mortuary will deliver the cremated remains to the family in a
simple rigid plastic container unless the family has chosen an urn at extra
This form also confers the authority to move the body from the mortuary to the
crematory; acknowledges the need to remove implants, pacemakers, hearing aids,
and metal parts from the body (which can be done by the mortuary or by another
party if prearranged) and explains the cremation process.
This form clearly names the next of kin or other responsible party. If there is
no spouse or Authorized Representative and more than one child of the deceased
are survivors, the majority of the children must sign the paperwork. It is
clearly much easier to have a Durable power of attorney or an advanced health
care directive. After the paperwork is completed, the cremation normally takes
from four to five days (expect delays during holidays) and the cremated remains
are returned to the family, scattered at sea by the mortuary, or the internment
is witnessed by the mortuary.