As the leaves take their final bow, dropping from life on the tree to death beneath the branches that held them; as plastic skeletons greet visitors from porches in preparation for Halloween, thoughts of death are closer to the surface than any other time of the year. For those in the industry of the time beyond life, death is always on their minds in one way or another. Heather Leigh, the owner and operator of Greenhaven Memorial Gardens in Elgin, SC, is just such a person, and she wishes more people would think — and make concrete plans for — their death beyond the funeral service. Leigh is offering a new, limited-time service at her cemetery for people whose family members may not have thought that far in advance and need to find a place and a way to permanently memorialize cremated loved ones without breaking the bank.
“I want to help families address the big questions — the big what if? The ‘then what’?” Leigh, who is also a certified grief counselor and death doula, handles many clients and has hundreds of stories of families who have had all manner of situations arise when it comes to planning out the memorial of a loved one, or just as often when there was no prior planning done. “Why are you leaving the burden on your family to decide what to do with your ashes?” Leigh asks.
People are just not making that final step of the decision, Leigh offers. She has a story of a situation where a mother and son were in her office working on the mother’s funeral plans and thought the son would want to keep her cremains (cremated human remains) in an urn on his mantle only to find out that he was not into that idea at all. Other people find themselves in unexpected possession of cremains when they move aging family members into assisted living facilities or when they themselves pass on. Some even come to find themselves with cremains when they buy a new house and a full, unwanted urn was left in the attic, or in the back of a storage unit.
“Cremation gives families so many alternatives,” says Leigh. To give people one more option in an industry where sticker shock is often the case, she is offering an option where people can use Greenhaven’s brand new scattering garden for only $25, the cost of which is for the legal paperwork involved.
A family who has any cremains — whether recent, decades old, or anywhere in between — can make an appointment to scatter ashes in the month of February. Appointments can be made anytime between now and February, and the $25 can be prepaid up front to hold a specific date and time for the scattering to take place.
Beyond an appointment and the paperwork fee, very little is needed to take advantage of Greenhaven’s scattering garden in the month of February. Leigh notes that you will need the certificate from the funeral home that identifies the cremated remains, the cremains in the original urn or box, and the deceased’s basic information. For those who may not have the certificate, it will help to know which funeral home handled the cremation and the information can be obtained from there.
Leigh has a no-nonsense approach to planning for the end of life and urges people to go ahead and address this issue. She recounts another story of a woman who agreed to scatter her friend’s ashes at a beautiful lake several states away, but when it came time for the woman to do so, she realized she didn’t want to ruin this trip with the somber burden of having to scatter ashes, much less a windy-day incident like in The Big Lebowski.
Additionally, Leigh hopes to provide more information to people about the traditional funeral industry, which sells grief-stricken family members with high-dollar packages when the most meaningful ones she recalls were done on a shoestring budget but truly represented who the deceased was in life. “The failure to understand who governs a funeral home or cemetery can cost the consumer big dollars,” says Leigh. “No one realizes the ma and pa funeral home is no longer because ma and pa sold out to a corporation but continue to use the family name and no one is the wiser. The ultimate responsibility she holds, Leigh says, is to let people know the value of permanent memorialization for the remaining family members. “I help families understand we can provide value, and to give people the opportunity to think about what the essence of the person was and how we can honor them.”