Sunday, October 23, 2011

Urns & Outs - October, 2011

“Nobody wants to be forgotten.” In my extensive research in Cremation’s history I have found that this was a common phrase during a period of time when the “Memorial Idea” was in its prime. The ideal stated that Cremation is not final disposition, but a means to a beautiful memorial. In numerous places in the Midwest and Western states, this ideal gave way to beautiful columbaria where “imperishable bronze urns” were at rest in their respective niches. A beautiful idea; but there was then the same issue that funeral homes in all places face at some point: unclaimed cremated remains.

I was recently looking through some German Cremation Urn catalogs, and in the offerings of a number of colorful metal Urns by different suppliers, there was one Urn in each catalog that drew my attention – a single word engraved on the Urn’s surface. “Unvergessen.” Unforgotten. A powerful statement made by those who want their loved ones always remembered.

I remember as a young man, the first funeral home by which I was employed had a room off the garage where funeral equipment was stored. The back shelf of this space was used to store unclaimed cremated remains – the oldest dating back to the 1940’s and 1950’s. I couldn’t imagine then, as I can’t now, how people could go without knowing that their loved one was at rest. Somehow, though, they had gotten through the grief of losing their loved one – and it seems had gone beyond to leaving their loved one.

I would guess that every funeral home in the country, and in other parts of the world, has their own way of storing or disposing of these cremated remains. Perhaps it is a “memorial closet” or a room created for that purpose. Maybe it is a file cabinet in the garage or a shelf in the preparation room. Could it be that your establishment does something more permanent, like placing them in Ziegler cases and purchasing a crypt in a nearby mausoleum for the purpose?

Each time I walk by the filing cabinet with cremated remains from recent families we’ve served, I realize that I am walking by a sacred place, a place that, for all intents and purposes has become a “final” resting place for some who lie in repose in that space – waiting for the time when their loved one, maybe sometime in the future, comes to take them to their true final resting place. Until then, may we regard their memory, so they too may be “Unvergessen.”

At least, that’s my perspective...
~ Jason