Guiding Light Cremations

Two Years in Service to Humanity

January 19th, 2012

I am proud to announce that Guiding Light Cremations has completed two years in service to humanity. Our dedication to all families is relentless and our commitment to the death-care industry is unsurpassed. But perhaps the highlight of our workday is when we respond to the needs of a family inquiring about our services. That’s when our collective efforts spring into action and, like any well-oiled machinery, each of us shifts into high gear and provides the elucidation that best gives emotional and psychological support to each member of the family in need.

Although death always involves the culmination of physiological function, it is also very personal to each family. By listening attentively to what families have to say, we can offer the best options with which to procure a healthy closure. In so doing, we minimize suffering and limit your time in mourning. It is our professional obligation to demonstrate the most effective treatment to each family. And although we are not able to erradicate the anguish and sorrow associated with the death of a loved one, we most certainly provide an ambience that is both respectful and honorable, and all our families feel the resurgence of our compassion.

Because our professional behavior conveys empathy and our manner of speaking demonstrates compassion, families perceive our true roles as humble servants always ready to effect their healing process. All of our personnel are highly trained professionals who express a genuine concern for the delicate situation in which each family is found. All of us identify with our families because at one time or another each of us has experienced personal losses. This human frailty serves to unite us all.

Guiding Light’s directive is to create a foundation of support while simultaneously lessening the emotional burden inherent of such a trying time. Whether we are in the presence of one member of the family or many, our focus is to evaluate the specific set of circumstances that each family is facing. By understanding your dilemma through clarity, and by focussing on our commitment, we are able to provide a suitable delivery of services and merchandise that ultimately brings integrity to all concerned. Most importantly, however, by exercising keen judgment through team effort, thousands of families can attest to the respect we hold for all humanity.

Guiding Light is truly the epitome of humanitarianism. We are comprised of dedicated individuals who really care about our fellow human beings. What we do on a daily basis requires strength of character, human sensitivity, immense commitment and personal sacrifice. Without these very special qualities, none of us could perform the varied tasks expected of us day after day. The immense responsibilities that we each face in the performance of our duties is overwhelmingly huge. We triumph through each task because we care about coming to your aid at a time of great loss. We do these things on your behalf, for your benefit, and for your wellbeing.

Our success is measured not by our financial reward or by taking a large order of varied merchandise. We measure our success when you attain psychological closure, emotional satisfaction and spiritual fulfilment. When we see their evidence, we know we have gained your trust and our jobs were performed to perfection. The combined subleties of your facial grimaces, body language and verbal remarks awaken an overwhelming level of personal pride in all members of the Guiding Light Professional Team. This is why we are here.

Guiding Light Cremations is immensely proud to have earned a ‘badge of honor’ for all our hard work during the preceding two years. Not only have we received professional recognition by members of the death-care industry, we were also invited to appear in a television program on two occasions to discuss our services and educate the public about cremations. But we are especially excited about the immense number of verbal testimonials by members of our client families, those for whom we provided great service during their time of loss. It is our intention to continue our dedication to families of all faiths. Our genuine love for humanity will continue to shine for the benefit of all people.

Geronimo Mena, Jr.
Chief Operating Officer
Guiding Light Cremations
Hollywood, Florida

Guiding Light

The Ticking Time-Bomb

January 8th, 2012

Time will come to an end for all of us one day. When that happens, we will be dead. Prior knowledge of our expiration will most likely be accompanied by the pronouncement of a fierce frown, an indication that we would prefer to wait rather than submit to this end-all experience. Such is the unwelcomed grimace of death. Regardless of our ages, irrespective of our levels of wealth or degree of physical attractiveness, we all deplore that aspect of life, although we know that one day it will swoop upon each of us like a hungry hawk snatching an escaping rabbit. What will we be doing when that indescriminate knock is heard upon our door? Will we be aware of its impending approach or will it hit us like a thief in the night?

Regardless of our determination to bypass this inevitable occurrence, we will never be able to deter nature’s ticking time bomb. No matter how conscientious we are about its effect upon us, the reality is that we cannot stop, prevent nor postpone our enigmatic fatality. We must therefore resign ourselves to accept this harsh reality. There is nothing we can do because no one has ever escaped its awesome force. Nonetheless, religious indoctrination purports to have found a continuance of life in the spritual realm and asks that we prepare to reign in the afterlife. My instinctive response is that with faith mountains can be moved.

In the absence of faith, however, conclusions may lead you in a different direction. For instance, the act of thinking is connected to the physiological functions associated with our central nervous system. Thoughts are a bi-product of electrical energy through the synaptic process that involves billions of neurons, or nerve cells, contained in our brains and spinal cords. In the absence of our brains, as would be the case when we die, the formation of thoughts will no longer be possible. If we cannot think, then we cannot understand. And if we cannot understand, then we will not be able to exist outside our bodies because our rational cognition is what makes us the individuals we are.

In addition, our brains contain the master endocrine gland called the pituitary, which regulates all the other endocrine glands in our bodies, such as the thymus, thryroid, pineal, pancreas, adrenal, and our gonads, which in males are the testes and in females, the ovaries. Our human emotions are linked to our endocrine system. This complicated system contributes in a major way toward making us the human beings we are. You see, humans go beyond our intellectual composite; we are compassionate as well, are able to get angry, become tender, experience frustration, able to love, display bitterness, and plan retaliations unlike any other animal on earth. Without our bodies, however, we cannot possibly exercise our humanity. And without our humanity, we cannot possibly behave as human beings. A human being, after all, is very much tied to its physical being. If you deprive us of our physical bodies, we might as well not even exist. The truth is we have not yet reached the ultimate stages of our evolution. Evolution, after all, is an ongoing process that never arrives at a final stage.

Never has any one person understood the essence of everything, although many have contributed much to different disciplines and given to overall causes. Brilliant minds have added to our expanding knowledge. This collective contibution over ions of generations has added to the bulk of human understanding and will continue to expand until vast knowledge uncovers much about everything. The day will come when our understanding will counteract what we once thought to be true. Time will be the judge of our understanding and the knowledge we uncover will ultimately set us free from the bonds of ignorance.

As I absorb the effects of global tension, I can’t help but wonder why our expansive knowledge has not been used to quench the widespread disputes between the differing nations. Is it possible that intellectual awareness is simply an exercise in futility? Why do international governing bodies fail to effectively unite the people with opposing views, regardless of the issues in dispute. Are we not the homo sapiens that utilize strength of cognitive understanding for the resolvement of inner and outer conflict, or is this merely a facade?

I discovered many years ago that the death industry provided me with a special perception of the tenderness all people displayed while interacting with others during their time of loss. Their expressions were sincere, compassionate, honorable, sentimental, genuine, selfless and courageous as they mourned collectively. Whether it involved mother, father, spouse, sibling, extended family member or friend, their expressions represented the essence of all that is good with humanity. It was easy to become part of this homogeneous assembly of positive traits. Ironically, not even at church was I able to find such pureness.

I am very grateful for having found this magnificent side of humanity. Consequently, I will continue to uphold the highest standards when dealing with the dead. After all, it’s because of our dearly departed that I am able to function within such an honorable assemblage. Taking it to a higher level, I urge everyone to pay homage to those who are in imminent danger of dying. Don’t wait until that person has expired before you express how much that person meant to you. Express your sentiments while the person is able to see, hear and feel what you have to say. Your expressions of love can be a great source of psychological, emotional and spiritual sustenance.

In the final analysis, humanity should spend more time and energy creating a world in which each of us can live harmoniously with one another. Eliminate the hatred that sets off the wars that kill people and we will all live in a peaceful existence. As intelligent human beings we have what it takes to create such an environment. Rather than pondering on the existence of an afterlife, why not perform a true miracle here on earth by creating an ambience of peacefulness rather than escaping into spiritual oblivion in the expectation of an existence that may probably never happen. Here lies the true challenge of humanity and each of us can make a difference.

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

Guiding Light

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

Protecting Our Sacred Memories Through Pre-Planning

January 1st, 2012

We move from one event in our lives to the next in chronological succession that in due time will leave us with only replicated memories of each event. The element of time, for all its miraculous wonderment, is the one factor of which we have but a limited amount. It is this precise factor that should always influence us to behave in a manner that is conducive toward keeping and monitoring our behavior with honor, respect and integrity. When we reflect on the experiences throughout our lives, they should always elicit the most positive sentiments. This is what makes us civilized.

By the time we begin to speak, each of us has already learned the necessary social skills that will enable healthy interaction between and among all people with whom we will come in contact throughout our lives, including our parents and all other family members. The manner in which we express oursleves, whether in words or through action, must reflect the civility with which we were indoctrinated into society. While exceptions do exist, their numbers should be kept to a minimum. That is our collective responsibility.

Our travels through life should include planning ahead for our losses. One common denominator that each of us shares is death; the death of a loved one as well as that of our very own. This process is inescapable and constitutes the one peculiarity that makes us all vulnerable. It is what makes us human. And as human, we must take the necessary steps to insure that we are prepared for that day. This is what gives us the foresight to Pre-Plan.

To assist each family with their pre-planning experience, Guiding Light Cremations has obtained a special license from the State of Florida that helps make these decisions with gentle ease, while promoting inner harmony. We are comprised of dedicated servants who will take the needed time to explain what these services are, what they cost and which ones are better suited for your family. This is Guiding Light’s responsibility. And as commited professionals, we provide the proper guidance to each family, free of charge.

Guiding Light Cremations was established as a state-of-the-art facility for the strict purpose of bringing psychological and spiritual closure to each person procuring our services. This is our guarantee! This is what each of us strives to accomplish every time we sit with a family. The loss of a loved one should not be an overwhelming experience; it should never instill fear or create emotional paralysis. Handling the death of a loved one should be met with confidence, and only be decided upon with clarity of mind and the easeness of service selection. Please let our compassionate personnel walk you through the various approaches offered at Guiding Light Cremations.

A simple phone call or email is all it takes to initiate communication. Kindly contact Mr. Geronimo Mena Jr at 954-381-8888 and let us guide you. You will immediately realize that everything takes place at our facility. Once your loved one is in our care, he or she will receive all the needed attention from beginning to end, including cremation and placement of cremated remains into the selected urn. We are vigilant to insure that your loved one will always be treated with the utmost care and respect. Our vigilance is your security. And this too is our responsibility.

Geronimo Mena Jr, LDD
Chief Operating Officer
Guiding Light Cremations

Guiding Light

Plan Ahead

December 10th, 2011

For the first time in the history of Florida, statisticians have concluded that when it comes to the death of a loved one, Floridians are now leaning significantly toward cremation. Since the days of the thirteen original colonies, traditional funerals has always led the way as the preferred form of human disposition. With traditional funerals the remains are embalmed, then placed in a casket for viewing followed by burial at a local cemetery. This is no longer the case.

Perhaps the state of the economy has contributed to the change. Maybe it’s the concern for land usage. Then again, maybe people have finally realized that future decendants may not necessarily visit ancestors at the cemetery. Whichever the reason, times have changed and customs have been altered. Whatever disposition is selected, it should not be influenced by money, social consciousness or future behavior, whether individual or collective.

What should matter the most is that each family member interact with all others at the time of loss. Emotional expressions that are sincere and heartfelt, supportive interactions that display love and honor, and truthful manifestations of trust, empathy and good will always provide comfort during such times. Anything said or done should always reflect love of family and humanity.

Death, after all, will embrace each and every one of us sooner or later; it’s just a matter of time. Although the manner may be different, the result is always the same. By accepting the fate that awaits us all, we inadvertently embrace the one factor that makes us and keeps us all humble…..the fact that we are human. We are fortunate that we live in an era besieged by technology and the ability to plan for our own care once we die. We are able to make arrangements that gives us the advantage of decision.

Deciding how to handle your own death-care is accessible to everyone. All it takes is a simple phone call to the provider of your choice. At Guiding Light Cremations of Hollywood, you have the power to make those decisions right now, while stretching your payments for one year or more. No matter what your decision, you can take total control now. Guiding Light Cremations is duly authorized through state licensing to sell Pre-Need directly to each family.

Please view our website at and read about our services and our unique, state-of-the-art facility. Then call to arrange for your private tour of our crematory at your convenience. All of your questions will be answered with precision. And you will note that our fees are extremely reasonable. More importantly, however, you will immediately realize that Guiding Light Cremations will demonstrate compassion and sensitivity. Make your decision right now to learn about our cremation services. You can start by calling me directly at 954-729-8827.

Geronimo Mena, Jr,
Chief Operating Officer

Guiding Light


July 2nd, 2011

In this day and age where the quest for financial gain and the procurement of profit have taken precedence over important service considerations, not all crematories offer the same quality of care, excell in employee death-care training, are sticklers about operating under applicable statute and regulatory guidelines, and more importantly perhaps, provide a state-of-the-art facility with an impeccable reputation for cleanliness, honor and integrity in the handling of each human remains entrusted to them.

A bonafide crematory establishment that has already earned a solid reputation for its dedication to the death-care industry is Guiding Light Cremations of Hollywood, Florida. Under its leadership, owner and founder Geronimo Mena, Jr. always presents his families with the best possible service options at the most affordable prices. For over twenty seven years, Mr. Mena has brought emotional stability, psychological support and closure to the tens of thousands of family members and friends who have obtained his services.

In a market that can sometimes appear confusing, selecting the right crematory requires the implementation of three simple variables:
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.

The death-care industry has evolved over the years. Many establishments that offer cremations are not actual crematories. Consequently, unsuspecting families wind up paying exceedingly high fees or not pay enough for the type of services they are requesting. Sadly, it’s usually too late by the time such discoveries are made by these families. Utilizing the three-variable implementation system described above is the best way of avoiding the pitfalls of the crematory selection process. Make certain your cremation arrangements are made with crematories, not funeral homes or not any other cremation agency other than a bonafide crematory. Remember that a funeral home is not a crematory unless a cremation unit is on the premises and they are duly licensed to perform cremations. Otherwise, they are just a handling agent. Don’t be easily mislead.

At Guiding Light Cremations, our walk-in refrigeration system can accommodate over one hundred twenty human remains. When your loved one arrives at our facility, he or she is first positioned in a cremation container, followed by placement onto their individual refrigeration shelf. Our cremation units are built aesthetically ultra-modern and are operationally considered state-of-the-art equipment that have been electronically built for maximum efficiency. Each unit is linked to the internet in order to access remote witnessing. Families anywhere in the world can join our Witness Cremation provision via a special access code and password provided by us. These codes are changed immediately thereafter to protect the privacy of all our families. Our main objective is to provide the right ambience as a haven for those who have lost a loved one…a gathering place in which to say goodbye with dignity and honor.

When your arrangements are made through Guiding Light Cremations, you are assured of an experience that will always bring honor, integrity and unity among your family and friends. On the day of cremation, family and special friends may convene in our Family Room to pay their last respects. Your loved one is in view of all present and when you are ready to proceed, the cremation container is rolled a few feet and placed directly before the entrance to the retort, or cremation unit. When the door is raised, the remains enter and the door is lowered; cremation then begins. Nothing observed is deemed offensive, making each step an innocuous continuum of a well-planned event, designed to bring harmony and respect to both family and friends. This is the most honorable way of saying goodbye to a loved one.

Please remember that our facility was designed and built for the expressed purpose of honoring the memory of your loss. In so doing, your loved one will remain in your mind and in your heart. As a means of bringing additional comfort and security against unexpected deaths or simply to be prepared for the future, Guiding Light Cremations also specializes in Pre-need Planning. Give us a call today and inquire about these services. We are available everyday at any time and will answer all of your questions.

Geronimo Mena, Jr., LDD
Chief Operating Officer
Guiding Light Cremations

Guiding Light

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

In Commemoration of 10-10-10

October 10th, 2010

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