When a death occurs, the person you will meet with at the cemetery…long article for those who want to be in the know…

Kathy Chepela, Family Service Counselor, celebrating her 20th year of helping families with their cemetery and funeral needs.

Kathy Chepela, Family Service Counselor, celebrating her 20th year of helping families with their cemetery and funeral needs.

At Calumet Park Cemetery, the person you will meet with when a death occurs is called a Family Service Counselor. If you were looking for a job and answered our ad for such a position, and if you were hired, your first month would be filled with training, training and more training. For 140 hours, you would spend the better part of every day learning about cemeteries, and funeral homes, an products and services. You would go home, have dinner with your family, and go study that which was covered in that day’s class. Each day, new information would be presented to you and it would be your obligation to learn it.
You would learn the basics of a cemetery system which is made up of sections, and blocks, and lots and graves. You would learn that a basic ground burial would require a grave, a grave liner or vault, and opening and closing and a memorial, either above ground monument or flush marker (bronze on granite or bronze). A ground burial, or officially, and interment of human remains, is the choice of 65%-70% of the people that choose Calumet Park Cemetery as their final resting place. The rest of the approximately 600 families that we work with each year choose either mausoleum entombment or cremation.
As a new counselor, you would learn on the first day that Calumet Park has over 400 acres of land with 160 developed since our founding in 1928. You would learn that the price of graves are as low as free on a pre-need basis, or if you are a veteran, all the way up to $20,125 for one grave. Just like in the world outside of the cemetery grounds, price is determined by location.
There are over 40 sections within Calumet Park Cemetery, and each has its own special characteristics as to what kind of markers and monuments are allowed, what kind of grave decorations are allowed, what direction bodies are laid to rest according to Christian beliefs and which end of a grave a marker would be set on. You would learn where a vigil light may or may not be allowed, and flower planting, and so much more.
Throughout your training, you would discover that there are a tremendous amount of laws that must be complied with that were written for the protection of families and owners of cemeteries and funeral homes. What always seems to be the most contentious law is who has the right to sign for a final disposition and who has the right to have a grave opened. By the end of the first week, your head would be spinning and you would get tired of me, as the trainer, constantly telling you to “be patient…it will all come together…it is like a jig saw puzzle”. It is not easy, but it is extremely rewarding if you want a job that truly has meaning and is so helpful to the families we serve.
You would learn about funeral services, from traditional that have a visitation/viewing followed by a funeral service and trip to the cemetery for the committal service to a memorial service to cremation services with visitation to direct cremations. A funeral service is what we all experience when we visit a funeral home at the loss of a family member or friend. A committal service is the actual committing of a loved one to their final resting place at a cemetery. You would have to learn about caskets, and other products that support the funeral such as register books, prayer cards, catering and more.
All of this and much more would be covered in the month long training program. Learning all of the paperwork required to be legal in Indiana is a full week of training, from watching and then doing to become competent in transferring a family’s needs onto paper that protects all involved. All of this training is vital to the processing of our dead in modern day society, yet little of what is learned during the first month makes for a good family service counselor.
At Calumet Park, what makes a good counselor is a person who is caring, and patient, and understanding of what our patrons are going through. They have to be both sympathetic and empathetic and be able to function under great pressure. A family service counselor knows that when they enter the office for a day’s work, just about everyone they will meet to be of service to will have suffered a loss. This job is in complete contrast to a person who works at an ice-cream shop. Everyone that goes for an ice-cream is in a good mood, and anticipates the delicious taste of their favorite flavor. Nobody that a family service person meets is coming in willingly, especially when the situation is what you would learn to be known as an “at-need” family. That is a family that has an immediate need for our services because someone important to them has just died.
There are so many ways of meeting our maker, from the recent headlines of a murder/suicide to infant deaths, to car accidents to illness, and so much more. Some are sensationalized by the newspapers and TV and some go quietly in the night. However, for every death there remains those who must live with the loss. And before they can even stop and breathe and try to figure out what to do now that this special person is never coming home again, they must come to a funeral home and cemetery and go through so much detailed work that they really are not equipped to handle, but must face.
That is where the real cemeterian comes in. Take a caring, loving person who is outgoing by nature, educate them to be able to help a family with seamless service between the cemetery, funeral home and the needs of those being served, and make certain that the only thing that matters is the family they sit across from on a day of loss, and you have a good family service person.
We are fortunate to have a group of people that meet this criteria, and you, as a reader of this blog are invited to stop in anytime during the week or on a Saturday morning and meet our staff. If you have time, sit with a family service counselor and let them answer your questions about this frightening topic of death. You can take control of what you want your final goodbye to look like and cost by looking into prearranging your cemetery and funeral needs. If you like what you hear, and wish to preplan, a family service counselor can set you up with a zero interest payment plan that will fit your needs and your budget. Call 219-769-8803 now and set up a time for a no-obligation, free look, and like us on facebook at mycalumetpark.

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