GR funeral home explains how it handles cremains

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) – 24 Hour News 8 dug deeper into the dozens of cremains found in storage of a funeral home in Athens.

More than 35 boxes of cremains were found in the Athens funeral home after the former owner died. The findings left a Battle Creek woman wondering if she received the correct cremains.

It started after she received a call from the medical’s examiner’s office saying a box of her mom’s cremains were found in a room last week, when she already thought she was in possession of them.

Heritage Life Story Funeral Homes in Grand Rapids spoke with 24 Hour News 8 about the way it handles cremains to avoid similar scenarios.

“Personally, we say if you are entrusting us with the care of this person, we are going to oversee this step all the way through,” said Matt Hollebeek, vice president of the funeral home.

Hollebeek said part of the process of cremation Heritage Life Story Funeral Homes starts with signing documents.

One of the documents includes a cremation authorization.

“This should be true with any funeral home in Michigan, the next of kin has to sign and give their authorization for the cremation,” said Hollebeek.

In the authorization, it states that the individual signing has to return back to the funeral home within 30 days to take possession of the cremated remains. If they don’t, the funeral home has the right to have them buried in a manner they deem suitable.

The 30 day rule is specific to Heritage Life Story Funeral Homes, as the number of days can vary for funeral homes in Michigan.

Hollebeek said it is not uncommon for funeral homes to run into the case where a family member won’t return to pick up the cremains.

It’s what the funeral home does in that instance, that can set it apart from the others.

Heritage Life Story Funeral Homes buries cremains not picked up at Rosedale Memorial Park Cemetery in Grand Rapids.

To ensure the correct cremains are being given to a family, a piece of metal is used as identification. The metal disc is assigned to the deceased person to be cremated with a four digit number.

“Inside the container should be a metal disc, a key component here,” said Hollebeek. “When a person is brought to the crematory, that metal disc is with them.”

The metal disc should set apart different cremains from another.

“When the cremains are brought back, if the funeral home is not staying through that entire process, they are going to look and identify that metal disc that’s there with the set of cremated remains,” said Hollebeek.

There is not much regulation when it comes to disposing cremains. Neither the Calhoun County Prosecutor or the sheriff’s office received complaints about the situation in Athens.

Because of that, there isn’t a criminal investigation taking place.