Many Lakewood families find comfort in the array of possibilities that Lakewood offers for those who choose cremation, whether it be a celebration of life or a personal, permanent memorial, or both. Lakewood opened our first crematory in 1908 and we now partner with local funeral homes to do almost 1400 cremations a year. We invite you to read some stories of Lakewood families who have chosen cremation services at Lakewood.
The power of witnessing
Many people are familiar with the custom of shoveling dirt into a grave at a funeral as a way for loved ones to pay their final respects. Lakewood’s Family Services team wants people to know that if they choose cremation, there are many opportunities for connection in the final moments in the presence of their loved one.
A cremation witness service takes place just outside the crematory in a quiet, tastefully appointed room, designed to emphasize tranquility. Those present will see the casket enter the cremation chamber, similar to seeing a casket being lowered. Families can request that their funeral home schedule cremation services and a witnessing at Lakewood.
Lakewood’s Family Services team welcomes each group, providing a calming presence and the expertise to answer any last minute questions. The Family Services team has seen the myriad ways that families honor their loved ones, including incorporating rituals or religious customs into their goodbyes.
Kaye Haagenson, a member of the Family Services team, remembers one family who took turns wrapping a shroud around their father and then laid flowers in his casket. “I was moved by the family’s healing energy,” says Kaye. Some families prefer a more impromptu gathering. Kaye recalls a family with young children who each said a final word to their mom and then kissed her. “I was moved by how at ease the children felt in her presence. I believe that the family will take comfort in the memory of those last moments.”
Some families arrive without a plan as to how they will honor their loved ones, but simply taking quiet moments to reflect can also be powerful. Brett Tieman, another Family Services team member, recalls bringing out some coloring books and crayons for a group with young children, which gave the adults quiet time to reflect.
Kaye often finds that families just want to share stories of the person they loved, so she always makes time to listen. “I wish,” she says, “that more people knew that witnessing a cremation is an option because it is such an overwhelmingly positive experience.” Brett agrees, “Giving families a role can ease the grief a little and empower people in those last difficult moments.”
Taking the necessary time
After Bev Bajus’ husband Don passed away, Bev wanted to find just the right way to honor his life. She knew she wanted a permanent memorial at Lakewood but wasn’t sure which option felt the most meaningful. She considered a tribute plaque in the Garden Mausoleum and a bronze leaf on the Tree of Remembrance in the Memorial Mausoleum.
One morning still undecided, Bev took notice of a sculpture Don had created from a tree in their front yard. It struck her then that it would be most fitting to engrave Don’s name and the dates of his life on a leaf on the Tree of Remembrance. Bev worked closely with Alex Finseth, a Family Services team member, to custom plan the scattering service.
A close friend surprised Bev with a recording of his rendition of a song that had played at hospice on the day Don passed away. Bev was so pleased to be able to play that song at the service. It was a windy day and Bev and her friends agreed that the energy in the air meant that Don must have been present. Alex says the group also felt Don’s presence when a group of seven geese, the same number as the number of mourners, suddenly broke off and swam over after the scattering.
Bev and her friends then went to the Memorial Mausoleum to read some poems and see Don’s engraved memorial leaf on the Tree of Remembrance. Bev told Alex that it had been a beautiful experience and that everything had come together in the most serendipitous way.
Personalizing your loved ones final resting place
Carole Johnson, now an active Lakewood Welcome Team volunteer, first came to Lakewood in the late 1970s. Her young daughter had passed away after struggling with lifelong medical challenges. “When Nancy died,” Carole says, “I wanted her to have some of her favorite things in the niche along with her ashes.” One item that Carole chose was a doll that Nancy adored. “If you held the doll one way, it looked like she was awake. If you turned her over, she seemed to be asleep. That was one of Nancy’s favorite things.”
Nancy’s younger sister Julie, who was only two when her big sister passed away, was always trying to get a hold of Nancy’s colorful ponytail holders. Nancy had told Carole she didn’t want her younger sister to have them. “So, I put the hair ties in the niche with Nancy as well,” Carole says.
“Although my husband and I knew we wanted cremation, we also wanted a spot we could return to. We chose Lakewood’s Memorial Mausoleum because I love the beauty of the building, especially the stained-glass windows.”
In the years since, Carole’s parents have also been memorialized in the Memorial Mausoleum and now Carole visits all three when she comes to Lakewood. “It helps to be surrounded by so much beauty. I’m glad that we found this perfect spot.”
Learn more about cremation at Lakewood
If you have questions about cremation services, witnessing or memorials at Lakewood, schedule an appointment with our Family Services team by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 612-822-2171.