One local cemetery's twist to funerals helps celebrate the dead - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

One local cemetery's twist to funerals helps celebrate the dead

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One Charlotte cemetery is changing things up when it deals with loved ones saying their final goodbyes to their relatives. 

Gethsemane Memorial Gardens now creates a tribute table consisting of the favorite things of the deceased at the grave site.  For the past year, the cemetery has really been focusing on this feature. 

"Make sure we think outside the box," Advanced Planning Specialist Demond Miller said.  "21st century requires a new way of doing things."

When the family makes arrangements at the funeral home, Miller talks to the family to find out more about their loved one.  He wants to know their favorite color, favorite food, and hobbies. 

Miller then takes that information and gives it what he calls his WOW committee.  They create a grave side service that's out of this world. 

Miller thinks having this type of service at the cemetery is appropriate.

"When you leave your loved one in a place for the last time," Miller said. "It ought to be a memorable occasion, so the families receive that quite well." 

One recent service was of a 41-year-old man who passed away.  

"He loved sports," Miller said. "Football, Basketball. His favorite team is the Cowboys. He loved Coca Cola. His favorite candy bar was a Snickers bar."

The committee took that information and placed all those items on a table at the grave site. His family was blown away when they arrived at the cemetery. Mourners left impressed.

"Everyone has been saying how nice everything was set up." Mother of deceased Richette Clark said.

His favorite food was also served at the grave side and people walked away with a snickers to remember their loved one.  Clark believes her son would have liked what was done to celebrate him.

"Talk about the things that he likes," Clark said. "His colors and all that stuff. His foods - I think he would have been well pleased with that."

The grieving mother believes this elaborate service made the difference.

"It just eased the pain a little bit." Clark said.

The funeral business is a multi-billion dollar industry. Cemeteries are competing to stay relevant and to keep clients coming. 

Miller claims this new way of doing things has increased business and has mourners, who see this, think about how they would like things to be done when it's their time to die.

"People come back all the time," Miller said. "And say, Hey - instead of Snickers Bars - I like Three Musketeers. I want to have my life honored the same way, so they come and preplan for theirs and they call me."

Miller says as far as he knows, Gethsemane is the only local cemetery offering this service.  He is not worried about copycats.

"Once you do what you do," Miller said. "People can't duplicate that."

This service is not a separate cost for the family.  It is factored into the price of a burial at Gethsemane which range in price from about $1,700 to $6,300.

WBTV's Dedrick Russell witnessed a grave side service at Gethsemane. He will share that story on WBTV News at 6.

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