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Sensitive, Honorable, Accommodating, Respectful & Professional……S.H.A.R.P.

February 24th, 2013

Having spent the better part of my life in service to humanity, I am privileged to be a part of the healing process for so many everyday people; individuals who have undergone the most dreadful of all human experiences…the death of a loved one. For these people, nothing is more important. When I see the pain and sorrow edged on their faces, my instinctive reaction has always been to come to their rescue by imparting a foundation of understanding that will make their mourning much more bearable.

My approach involves innate characteristics that are inherent of my persona. These are described through the pseudonym SHARP, which refers to Sensitive, Honorable, Accommodating, Respectful, & Professional. I embark each of these attributes to bring about a comforting resolution that ranges from the initial handling of your loved one through the cremation or traditional funeral, whether you are present or not. Most importantly, however, all the services offered at Guiding Light Funeral Home & Cremation Center are affordable to every family.

Our economy lacks the sophistication with which to traverse in a financially careless manner. More to the point, every dollar must be spent wisely. The time has come to reduce the high fees associated with death-care expenses. Toward that end, we at Guiding Light provide the best of services at prices within your means. Aside from owning the most state-of-the-art crematory facility anywhere, our Family Room, Waiting Areas and Conference Room have a luxurious appeal uniquely to SHARP. Members of our families are immediately made to feel at ease. Once they walk into our facilities, our families know they have come to the right place.

As owner and operator of Guiding Light, I have listened to families as they have shared countless stories relating to the loss of their loved one. Often times a close family member is left emotionally vulnerable. Sometimes the affected person is incapable of knowing exactly what to do or how to express their feelings. It is my responsibility to listen attentively before offering any words of alleviation, advise or suggestions. No matter how my clients respond or what they decide, they are assured to receive the most kindhearted guidance that best reflects their needs and financial circumstances. I am very sympathetic to all the families I serve because every person is entitled to the most humane treatment possible. By the time our arrangement conference comes to an end, my families know exactly what they want. It is always our commitment to guarantee that you will receive the utmost care and respect. At a time when your emotional resistance may be at its lowest, Guiding Light will provide the best professional care at a price that is affordable. This is my pledge to you.

If you wish to discuss cremation or funeral arrangements, or if you are interested in our Pre-Need Services, please call me at your convenience. I will schedule a special time for us to meet and discuss your special set of circumstances. You will be glad you did. Please know that I am here to always serve you and your family!

Geronimo Mena Jr, LDD
Chief Operating Officer
Guiding Light Funeral Home & Cremation Center

Baby-boomers, CANA, Florida Cremations, Guiding Light, Hollywood

Service with Honor…

January 4th, 2012

Many years ago family and friends would ask why I chose death-care for a profession. I knew that I had been drawn to this industry but I didn’t exactly know why, so I answered the best way I knew how. I explained that there was a certain mystery associated with death and that’s why I was compelled to pursue it. Actually, my explanation could not have been further from the truth. It took almost twenty years before I discovered the underlying reasons for my professional pursuit.

The truth is death-care wasn’t my first commitment, it was my second. I was first indoctrinated in the art of religious pursuasion, wherein my clerical habit set the foundation as spiritual representative for all those who believed and practiced the nuances of ritualistic Christian worship. I soon discovered that its educational foundation served more to instill in me an inner spiritual deterrence that served to counter my role as faithful leader. I had to denounce for reasons of existential honesty.

During my tenure, however, I had performed requiem services that had inadvertently helped awaken in me an interest in death-care that went far beyond my ecclesiastical responsibilities. I eventually felt at home in funeral homes and cemeteries, which subsequently lead to the maximum engulfment of my prep-room proficency. The latter, I have to admit, set the groundwork for my eventual evolvement in the art of cremation. I had finally awakened an inner sleeping giant and I was, at last, able to reach the zenith of my current vocation. I ultimately found my niche at Guiding Light Cremations, albeit many years later, but nonethless a remarkable find.

The tumultuous journey of my career was not clearly defined from the onset. It was an arduous travel along bumpy roads that presented many challenges and just as many deviations. However, my love of humanity was never abondoned. I pursued the industry that allowed me to give of myself to all people. You see, my profession has absolutely nothing to do with serving the dead. Instead, I serve the living through acts of honor and compassion and love of humanity. My dedication to all people, of all faiths and from all walks of life has given me a unique richness that has made me flourish in all areas of life. My wealth is internal, where it counts the most!

It has taken me most of my life to unravel the mysteries surrounding my own commitment to humanity. I now know why death represents the essence of life for me. I can state with absolute certainty that when people suffer a loss, they are usually very vulnerable and in great need of guidance. This is the time to come to their aid, not take advantage. Unscrupulous people, professionals and non-professionals alike, always reveal their tentacles of destruction at the most unsuspecting time and always at the expense of innocent people, either for sadistic satisfaction or monetary gain. Instead of offering acts of kindness through behavior that is deemed honorable, they sometimes generate gruesome acts of selfishness that create pandemonium in their living prey. Instead of empathy, they epitomize deceitfulness; rather than operating with truthfulness, they instill contempt and corruption. A careful look through the internet will easily reveal the horror stories that have affected so many innocent people.

During the past decade, a lone crematory operator in Noble, Georgia took possession of three hundred thirty four human remains over a two-year period for the expressed purpose of performing their cremations. The Tri-State Crematory was a third-party crematory provider for the funeral home industry. As it turned out, rather than performing the services for which he had been paid, he tossed each human remains within the forested land behind his establishment, thus allowing each human body to decompose over time under the hot Georgia sun and amidst the harsh natural elements. After two years, all were recovered and each was disposed of properly and legally after their families had been notified. Family members and friends were outraged at the inconceivable treatment of their loved ones. Many were in shock while others demanded justice. The man responsible for such decadence was Ray Brent Marsh, now serving twelve years in jail for his actions.

In an unrelated story, twenty three families sued a Boca Raton, Florida university because their loved ones were taken to the university so that their funeral students could learn embalming techniques by practicing on the cadavers. The lawsuit indicated that none of the families had given consent for such practices, according to court depositions. The judge who presided over the case ruled in favor of the families, giving them the go-ahead to seek punitive damages from both the university as well as the body transport company, who, acting as transporter, collected fees from the university for each body, as well as from the county or funeral homes for their actual cremations.

The transport company operator, which also owned the crematory, stood to gain financially on both ends. Similarly, the university gained by keeping their funeral service program quite active with a seemingly endless supply of fresh cadavers for their students. The litigious entanglement pointed fingers every which way in an attempt to assign blame and impugn the character of each defendant, both the university and the crematory. The university insisted that they did not know that the crematory never obtained permission for the embalming practices. The transport company and crematory, on one side, and the university, on the other, both stated that they were innocent of the charges. Culpability is easy to deny. What could not be easily overlooked were the thousands of emotionally devastated family members and friends of the decedents. Here again, as with the Tri-State Crematory, the innocent were left in total devastation. The defendants in this case were Lynn University, Professional Transport and Oakwood Crematorium.

Our final story reveals the shocking behavior of cemetery employees at the Palm Beach County Menorah Gardens in which the remains of a war veteran, Air Force Col. Hymen Cohen of Lake Worth, were dug up and tossed into the woods inside the cemetery grounds. Thousands of people were represented in this class action lawsuit against the operator of the two troubled cemeteries in Broward and Palm Beach counties, both owned and operated by Service Corporation International, the largest provider of funeral services in the country. The court reached a $100 million settlement in favor of the plaintiffs.

These three unrelated stories serve to illustrate that even without provocation, some people still act maliciously against innocent individuals, exercising a wanton disregard for human compassion and societal ethics. It seems to always happen against our unsuspecting, law-abiding citizens. One of my recent blogs, appearing in this website, discusses the manner in which you can defend yourself against the potential threat of rogue operators, especially at the crematory level. Please refer to my blog entitled, CREMATORIES ARE NOT ALIKE…

For your edification, the three helpful points that appeared in the blog are presented below for your knowledge and convenience. Please follow these simple techniques so that you too may benefit from my many years of experience:

1. Call and speak with the target crematory’s licensed representative and ask about their services and corresponding fees. Make sure there are no hidden fees or charges. Some funeral homes and crematories are notorious for masking fees and only reveal these items once they have taken possession of your loved one.
2. Visit the crematory website and determine if the remains will go directly to the crematory of your choice or if they are first stored at another location. Become highly suspicious of facilities who first send your loved one to a holding place. Such a practice is an indication that they are not crematories, but rather funeral homes or direct disposal offices that ultimately negotiate with a bonafide crematory to cremate your loved one. You do not want your loved one traveling from one place to another.
3. Visit the crematory and evaluate their representative’s professionalism based on ten minutes of interaction. Listen attentively to the person attending to you. Does he or she sound compassionate, concerned and caring or is he simply acting as a salesman interested in making a sale. Also, ask to tour the facility. Evaluate the crematory’s physical condition, overall cleanliness, as well as the sanitary condition of their refrigeration system. Crematories with small refrigerators usually cram bodies atop or beside each other. Find out how many human remains their refrigeration system can hold. Does it have a lingering foul odor due to sanitary neglect or carelessness.

Guiding Light Cremations of Hollywood, Florida is here to serve you at your time of need. We also specialize in Pre-Need contracts, if that’s your desire. Either way, please call to schedule a tour of our facility. I will be most willing to show you every aspect of our crematory. I wish you the very best of health, wealth and happiness. I also state without hesitation that if you are in need of our services…….we truly are your best selection!

Most sincerely,
Geronimo Mena Jr, LDD
Chief Operating Officer
Guiding Light Cremations
Hollywood, Florida

Baby-boomers, CANA, Florida Cremations, Guiding Light, Hollywood, In Memory of 911

The Growth of Cremations

October 22nd, 2010

By now, mostly everyone is aware that death-care has seen significant growth in cremations over the last score of years. It has been projected that traditional funerals will decline even further, thus allowing cremations to continue its upward movement to eventually become the preferred method of handling the death of our loved ones. This writing will explore the reasons why these changes have occurred and the forces that kept cremations suppressed for so long.

In recent history, traditional funeral care was primarily influenced by social norms, religious application and personal choice, and although financial consideration sometimes played a role in the services chosen, it was never the sole factor. While the norms in any society set the pace for social proscriptions and their embracing values, religion played a significant and discerning role in the decisions concerning traditional funerals. After all, funeral services were synonymous with prayers, religious rites, spiritual beliefs, and almost always involved the presence of religious leaders.

Religious beliefs, coupled with cultural identities and the ancestral influences inherent of so many varying nationalities constituted the factors that determined the characteristics of the funeral services, whether held at the funeral home, church, cemetery or at the residence of the family. In spite of these influences, however, the most powerful hidden force to propel the identity of the traditional funeral was almost always the funeral director, the only person who held the trump cards in the game of human disposition.

During the arrangement conference, family members were usually led down the beaten path to accept the latest in funeral merchandise, such as elaborately designed wooden or metal caskets. Emphasis was also placed on the funeral visitation and the assorted memorabilia available, like prayer cards, religious photos, newspaper obituaries, written biographies, and of course, the musical ensemble playing amidst a labyrinth of family portraits and photos in CD format, presented on large monitors throughout the visitation. Aside from these items, additional selections included flower baskets, standing sprays, corsages and a variety of unique and tributary floral arrangements, and of course, Christian crosses, crucifixes, rosary beads, and other religious artifacts like the Star of David.

Visitations included the playing of music, the watching of videos, the showing of family photos and many other specialized presentations that had been planned for, agreed upon and implemented by funeral personnel. Additional on the spur-of-the-moment stories told by family and friends added special touches that brought unity among those present. The cemetery was usually chosen for its geographical location or previous usage by family. The final transportation involved a procession of vehicles that followed the coach and limousine on a slow ride to the cemetery, where everyone gathered at the graveside to observe the casket as it was lowered into the ground or elevated into a mausoleum crypt.

Clear on the other side of the service spectrum was the hush-hush subject of cremation. In the beginning, everyone believed that if cremation had been requested, it was probably attributed to the family’s lack of funds. In those ‘cremation whisper’ days, many funeral directors openly expressed their disapproval of cremations, leaving families with the impression that everything had to be done to bring closure through honor and integrity, implying that only through a proper burial could this be achieved. However, the arrangement conference always took a nosedive at the family’s insistence for cremation. The funeral director knew that the funeral extras that brought dollars to the establishment would be reduced to a mere trickle if cremation was chosen.

What is most unfortunate is that even for many seasoned funeral directors, attitudes about cremations are still the same, even after so many years. If an objective study on the verbal and nonverbal communication of funeral directors during the arrangement conference were at all possible, it would most probably reveal their subjective and negative sentiments about cremations. When compounded with other negative propaganda to perpetuate damning results because of the occasional cremation horrors that have been uncovered, cremations would succumb even further into the pits of negative gossip. In spite of these hurdles, however, cremations continue to rise above the traditional funeral.

Negative attitudes about cremations stem from the funeral directors’ awareness of the limited profits through cremation. Additional negative long-lasting effects generally involve industry mishaps by employees. For example, about five years ago a crematory in Mobile, Georgia took possession of 334 human remains over a period of time and instead of performing their cremations, the bodies were thrown in the woods adjacent to the crematory property and allowed to decompose over time. This was an outrage that showed how one single operator could demonstrate such disdain toward humanity. Familes were horrified and the public was offended at the indecency of these actions. Such concerns are real and are the focal point of many recurring stories that accentuate such horrors.

The consequence of such aversive behavior has deprived thousands upon thousands of families of the best means of promoting healthy, respectful and humane closure through cremation. In addition, family and friends are further deprived of the Witness Cremation, thereby distancing families from a potentially positive experience that is available only at the crematory. The Witnesss Cremation allows family members to pay their respects in the presence of their loved one in order to say goodbye in an honorable manner and allows them to ask questions about the cremation procedure and the assurance that they’ll ultimately get the correct cremated remains, those of their loved one. After this very important exchange at the crematory, family and friends may observe as their loved one is placed inside the cremation chamber. The majority of crematories have the means to provide such an important and elaborate opportunity to each family.

Prior to the mid 1900′s, cremations were looked upon from a cynical point of view. Back then, cremations were associated with the atrocities of Hitler’s concentration camps and the killing of millions of innocent people. As knowledge of Hitler’s propaganda spread throughout the world, cremations earned an outward hatred because of the association. Starvation, torture, illness and the inhumane treatment of Germany’s political prisoners all contributed to the annihilation of so many victims. Those who were not buried in mass graves or became part of an external funeral pyre were ultimately reduced to ashes at Nazi operated crematoria. The units were designed and built to dispose of the multitude of prisoners that were converted daily to corpses before being strewn past the crematory steel doors. Men, women and children whose only crime was to follow the Judaic faith were targeted as Hitler’s enemy.

News accounts of such inhumane treatment left all of us with knots in our stomachs and terror in our hearts. Anyone possessing even a kernel of human decency or an ounce of respect for the solemnity of human life was inflicted with overwhelming psychological despair that was easily felt throughout the world. This abysmal sensation was experienced by all people, regardless of national origin or religious following. Once again, such negative associations with the act of cremation had left many people impervious to change. Consequently, cremations did not become a viable option for many years. Interestingly, in spite of all the discouraging stories that circulated for so long, cremations are still climbing. We must therefore ask ourselves, why? The answer is linked to the finances of each family and the economic struggles of our times. Cremations eventually skyrocketed once the conditions were favorable, in spite of the historical setbacks associated with World War II.

With support from celebrities, however, the idea of cremation started to take its rightful place in the hierarchy of positive evaluation and optimistic placement and is currently expected to continue its upward climb of preference. Adding to the bandwagon of cremation popularity were famous individuals who themselves were cremated. Some of these were John Lennon, whose body was cremated at the insistence of his wife, Yoko Ono. Others include Versace, Maurice Gibbs from the Bee Gees, Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, Robert Oppenheimer, Arthur Rubenstein, Harpo Marx; Ze’ev (Vladimir) Jabotinsky; Ethel Merman; Maria Callas; Neville Chamberlain; Alexander Fleming; Greta Garbo; Marvin Gaye; George Harrison; Henry James; John F. Kennedy Jr.; Rudyard Kipling; Eliot Ness; George Bernard Shaw and many, many more.

It seems that the passing of time has helped heal the negativity once associated with cremations. However, the war has not been won outright; only smaller battles have seen the victory of triumph. In order for a total victory, one must allow progress to completely overcome and eradicate those awful memories. There’s still work to be done to overthrow years of aversive conditioning.

Today, Jews practice cremations as do Christians, Buddhists, Hindus and Moslems. In addition, everyday people have contributed toward washing away these sins of history. Movies that depict cremations as an acceptable means of human disposition have already reached thousands and even millions of people. We have finally reached the point from which accelerated progression can be implemented through proper coaching and education. During our lifetime, each of us will convene at our crematory of preference to pay tribute and say goodbye to a loved one through the Witness Cremation.

Geronimo Mena, Jr.

CANA, Florida Cremations, Guiding Light, Hollywood, In Memory of 911