The pyramids in Egypt were built to give permanent memorialization to the rulers of that land. The tomb of the 13th Disciple to Christ, Matthias, can be seen to give credence to his life. George Washington, known by many as the Father of America has a burial site at his Mount Vernon home.
However, there can be no doubt that we are on a trend line to make permanent memorialization an afterthought to human life. And, I think that is sad. . . .not only because someone’s life will be forgotten in a relatively short period of time. . . . but also because history can come alive through the permanent memorialization process.
This topic came to mind when I read a press release from Foundation Partners Group (FPG) that you can read here. It is entitled, “Why Permanent Memorialization Matters” and was written by Andrew Clark, Chief Customer Officer at FPG. According to the press release, it apparently appeared in the February 2021 edition of American Cemetery and Cremation.
Here is an excerpt from that press release:
“My grandfather, Herbert George Clark, was a Naval flight mechanic who died in a plane crash off the coast of Newfoundland while traveling home from Morocco in January 1961. I never met him and his remains were never recovered, however, he has a headstone in Arlington National Cemetery. I have visited it several times and, while his body is not there, I am so grateful he has a permanent place of memorialization.
Every life makes an impact on others and deserves to have a permanent, public place of memorialization – a place where family, friends and future generations can go to visit and remember. It also provides comfort after services and the funeral are over. . . . According to CANA research, a wider range of memorial options is one of the key reasons Americans choose cremation over traditional burial. Many families elect to take cremated remains to their homes. While it may be comforting to have grandma’s urn on the mantel, the ability to “go and remember” doesn’t extend beyond immediate family members. In addition, over time, an urn passed from generation to generation can be lost or even forgotten in an attic or closet. . . . .
. . . . .I remain very thankful that in my family’s case, my grandfather’s headstone provides a permanent place for us to visit and remember. I look forward to taking my sons – his great-grandchildren – to visit his marker and telling them his story.”
You see, I can relate to Mr. Clark. My father died when I was a teenager. He is buried in the same community that I live in. I go to the cemetery to celebrate his birthday, on Father’s Day, and simply on days of contemplation when I need help making a decision. I know where he is. . . . and I know he lived. . . as do my children who never met him, but have heard wonderful stories while standing near the gravestone.
The fraternal side of my family immigrated from Sweden and reached America in 1872. My great-grandfather, the patriarch of our American family tree, is buried there too. His stone brings me the reality that what I heard about him is true, because his memorial proves he lived.
In 1991 I had the opportunity to be in Trier, Germany, which at one time was the northernmost outpost of the Roman empire. It is in St. Matthias Abbey just outside the city where the 13th Disciple named in the Bible, Matthias is entombed. A follower of Christ, Matthias was chosen by the remaining eleven original disciples to replace Judas after Christ was crucified.
I’ve been a Christian since I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior in my teenage years. Christianity is a faith-based religion, but seeing the tomb of someone written about in the Bible brings faith-based as close to reality as possible. To see the tomb of one who actually walked and talked with Christ was a unique reality. Permanent memorialization made the Biblical story absolutely real to me.
The same holds true for the history of America. Several years ago I had the good fortune to help chaperone my son’s 8th grade class trip to Washington, DC. On that trip we visited Mt. Vernon, George Washington’s estate. I was able to see George Washington’s grave/tomb and that brought a great sense of reality of that history to me.
On that trip I also had the good fortune to be able to tour George Washington’s home at Mount Vernon. And in doing so, I had a thought that only funeral directors would probably think about. The guide mentioned that Washington died in the second story bedroom of that home. I then looked at the skinny, winding stairwell and wondered, “How did they carry him down”!
In any regard, I bring you this article today simply to re-iterate Mr. Clark’s thoughts that permanent memorialization, whether for earth burial or cremation dispositions, is important. It is not only dignified for the deceased in remembering a life that has been lived. . . .but it is important for future generations of the family, to believe in their relatives, as well.
I would plead with all funeral directors and pre-arrangement counselors, to bring up the value of the process over time to future generations. If families choose not to permanently memorialize regardless of your efforts, you at least have peace of mind knowing you did what you could for the process.
What can funeral homes do to help? — Back in the day of high percentage majority casketed burials permanent memorialization was easy. . . . the body had to be buried and most were remembered in cemeteries with grave stones and/or other types of monuments. The trend of non-permanent memorialization has followed the trend of cremation as a disposition form. . . a disposition that does not require burial.
In order to have permanent memorialization for cremation families, death care providers have to be able to meet the consumer at their point of comfort. That probably means that we have to provide options or alternatives to just bringing the urn home. Those options should include columbariums, cremation designed earth burial spaces in cemeteries, and even scattering gardens with memorial nameplates. If you don’t have these options available in your trade area, then you are fighting an uphill battle in the secular movement of non-permanent memorialization.
Funeral homes should visit with cemeteries to see how they can help. . . .can a funeral home help with financing. . . can a funeral home build a columbarium for a cemetery and then work out some type of revenue sharing agreement to recoup their costs. These are positions that should be investigated in your community.
One of our Funeral Director Daily sponsors, Kyber, specializes in this type of consulting. To find ways to advocate for permanent memorialization, and possibly help increase your bottom line, give Melanie or Derek at Kyber a call and see what they can do to help.
More news from the world of Death Care:
- Funeral home is family business for 125 years. Bristol Herald Courier (VA)
- Green Burials: Cemetery commissioners discuss natural alternatives for Cape Cod. Cape Cod Times (MA)
- Column: Civil War Museum has unique past. Frederick News-Post (MD)
- Deep in suburban Henrico, a pet cemetery with a long history. The Washington Post (DC)
- Grieving mom fears coroner’s grisly funeral home gave her fake ashes. Daily Beast
- Covid-19 means funeral homes busier than ever. Pacific Daily News (Guam)
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