We’ve advocated that one of the issues that funeral homes have to overcome to continue to serve the needs of families in need is to emphasize the fact the “Permanent Memorialization” matters. By that we mean that cremated remains cannot just be left in a closet or left at the funeral home unclaimed. They need to have a final resting place so the lives of those people can be remembered.
Susan Cunningham is a Galesburg, Illinois, hospice nurse who realized that memorialization matters. She took it upon herself, as a good Samaritan, to make sure that those who were dying without relatives had a place after they died.
According to this article in the Galesburg Register-Mail, Cunningham commented, “Back to neanderthals, we’ve buried our dead, it’s like a natural law. So if you violate that, you violate your sense of what’s good and right and decent. In some churches and some religions, it’s called a great work of mercy to bury the dead.”
Cunningham has now moved from being a good Samaritan in the community to starting a non-profit, the Cremation Assistance Foundation of Galesburg, to make sure no one goes without a proper memorial place if desired. Just last Sunday the foundation had it’s first ceremony where they interred the ashes of ten people – nine of whom were never claimed and the funeral homes had exhausted efforts to reach relatives. Cunningham also mentions, “that’s one reason I got involved, because no one should just be sitting on a funeral home shelf”.
Grace Anglican Church of Galesburg has provided thirty spaces to the foundation in their cemetery for this purpose and others in the community have joined in the effort. The St. Vincent Society of de Paul has provided urns and the Hy-Vee of Galesburg provided the flowers.
Funeral Director Daily take: Thank you Susan Cunningham for giving us a template. Funeral homes all over the country should be involved in these types of efforts. If we don’t show the value of the permanent memorialization of people’s lives, who will? . . . . and I’m afraid that one generation down the road people may not care all that much about remembering at all.