Category Archives: feature stories

He is risen…

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April 18, 2019 · 1:24 pm

Nobody is too tough to cry….

Nobody is too tough to cry

by Daniel Moran, G.M. Calumet Park Cemetery

I turned my car onto a rutted, dirt road.  About a quarter of a mile in, I passed a rusted gate hanging half off the hinges.  The house was really not much more than a shack with an old couch on the porch and windows that were in bad need of repair.  It was almost dark, that time when you can see a light on in a window when the sky is darker than it is light.  There was no garage and no car, so I was wondering if my appointment was even home.  I was there to talk about new windows, or at least storm windows, and a quick glance showed that the house was actually deteriorating around the frames so I was asking myself if we could even do anything for this homeowner.

I parked, picked my way past the rotted porch floorboards and knocked.  I confess, I knocked lightly as I was hoping nobody was home so I wouldn’t waste my time on this lead.  As I turned to leave, I heard a male voice shout that I should come in.  “Crap!” I thought as I turned the doorknob and tentatively entered the house.  “Hello, my name is Dan and I am from the replacement window company,” I said as I slowly obeyed the command.  The living room was very small, maybe 10 x 10 and there was a worn-out recliner straight on from the front door.

The man sat under a very low wattage lamp.  There was a small area rug, an old black and white TV, and a simple black phone on a tin tray table next to him along with an ash tray spilling out cigarette butts.  There was a pile of wood shavings on the floor in front of his chair and he was whittling something as I approached.  “Get a chair from the kitchen and come talk to me about my windows.   This past winter was brutal on me.”

I pulled up a chair and sat, and my heart was racing.  The man, we’ll call him Bob for this story, had no legs, a right arm with a hand that had nubs for fingers, no left arm, long, oily hair hanging down past his beard and an eye patch over his left eye.  His face was scarred and his voice was ragged, presumably from years of smoking.

I gave a quick presentation of storm windows because it seemed obvious he had little to no money, which turned out to be correct.  But in the time we were together, we found a common bond.  He was a door gunner in Vietnam during the TET Offensive in ’68, and went from a small-town boy to a torn apart body of a man whose heart and soul was ripped away along with his lost limbs and eye.  In fact, as I shared some of my story of being a ‘Nam alumni, he poured out his pain.  This meeting of veterans was in 1984, 14 years after his being torn apart from concentrated ground fire.  It was always the goal of the Viet Cong to take out a door gunner when possible to stop some of the devastating M-50 machine gun attacks from the sky.

He shared his story of being in the hospital for over a year, and of the complications from taking so many rounds.  At one point, he pulled up his shirt and showed his body; riddled with scars.  I cried as he related the pain, the loss of hope, the confusion, the loneliness and the isolation his life had become.  He nodded to a purple heart next to his phone and bitterly mocked what he got for his trouble as a soldier in Vietnam.

We talked for a couple of hours and I finally said I had to leave, but that I would be back.  I promised.  I told him that, one way or another, he was getting new windows for his house.  And I was good to my word as I split the cost with the owner of the company after sharing Bob’s story.  By the way, we had to give him a new fence, too, because I tore his fence up trying to back out in pitch dark as I was squinting through my reddened eyes from the experience of meeting Bob.

I am sharing this story because Memorial Day is upon us once again.  Many years have passed and nearly all of us “old timer Vietnam vets” still live out our night terrors.  For me, I took my uniform off in 1971…48 years ago.  But there are living vets from WWII, Korea, and all the mid-East wars right up to newly created vets leaving the service as you read this as people that served their country with pride, and dignity and honor.  These people, your grandparents and parents, uncles and aunts, brothers and sisters and sons and daughters need to be remembered, particularly those whose deaths happened as a result of time served in our great military.  Veterans Day is meant for all of these people, and Memorial Day is for the departed.  However, I believe that there are many walking dead among us who lost a big part of who they might have been by fighting for this county, and they need to be honored and remembered every day.

I ask that all who read this article find time on Sunday, May 26 at 1:00, rain or shine, to come out to Calumet Park Cemetery and join with other like-minded people who wish to make a show of appreciation to our men and women of the armed forces.

People like Bob lost everything.  With his torn body, mind and soul, he had a lifetime that was so different than he could have ever imagined before he put on his first pair of Army boots.  He and all of his brothers and sisters in arms deserve an hour of respect and genuine thanks.

carving

Oh, the wood shavings.  The picture of the wood carving of the wizard shown with this article was carved by good old, one eyed, one armed, no fingered Bob as a gift to me in March of 1984.  It took him a couple of months to whittle it from a branch that came down with his fence from my inability to back up a car when leaving his home that winter night.  It hangs on my office wall to this day as a reminder that there can always be something good coming from something bad.  Bob was willing to share a couple of his hours with me, and created a work of art kindled by our mutual respect for time served for this country.  To me, this simple work of Bob has always had more meaning than all the medals that were awarded to me for my work in Nam.

I never saw Bob again, but that time together still occupies a part of my heart that reminds me that nobody is too tough to cry.  Never forget that “there but through the grace of God go I”.

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When a death occurs, who do you call?

When a death occurs at home or not in a medical institution: Under hospice care, call your hospice nurse.  They will confirm your loved one’s death and consult with a physician if necessary.  When you are ready to have the decedent removed from your home or other non-institutional place of death, contact your funeral home for further information and assistance.

Did you know that Calumet Park has three funeral homes for your convenience:  Merrillville (219.736.5840), Hobart (219.940.3791) and Rendina Funeral Home (219.980.1141)

When not under hospice care and a death occurs outside of a medical institution, it is necessary to first call the coroner or medical examiner to confirm the death.  This may be done by calling your local police or sheriff department at 911.  Once the coroner or medical examiner has arrived, let them know of your preference to contact us for further information or assistance (or your funeral home of choice).

When a death occurs in an institution: such as a hospital or nursing home, the medical staff will generally take care of all necessary steps.  All you would need to do is to notify the staff that you would like to have us handle the arrangements so that they can have you sign any necessary release paperwork.  It is always your choice as to what funeral home you prefer.  The institution will contact us to make arrangements so that we can assume custody of the deceased.

When a death occurs out of state or out of the area: If death occurs outside of Indiana or away from the region, please call us first so we can coordinate with a local funeral director at the place of death to have your loved one returned to this area. By being a member of several national associations, we can often save you money and added stress by having our firm make the arrangement to have your loved one brought back to Indiana.  Likewise, if your loved one is from out of the area, we can help with arrangements to get them to a funeral home in their hometown.

By contacting us first, we will assist you by answering any questions you may have.  We will listen and review the many available options that best meet your preferences and financial needs.  We want you to know that you are not alone and our caring staff will help make your loss as easy on you as possible.

Please have the following information available when you call our funeral home for help:

1.  legal name and location of the deceased and

2.  your name, phone number and your relationship to the person who will be in charge of making the arrangements with a funeral director.

3.  finally, for your meeting with your funeral director of choice, please bring the following to help in making the transition go as smoothly as possible – decedent’s legal name, sex, social security number, date of birth, date of death, birthplace (city, state, zip), if in military what branch, marital status, surviving spouse’s name, maiden name if wife, decedent’s occupation, complete address at the time of death, decedent’s highest level of education, if Hispanic origin (State of Indiana asks this for death certificate), what race, father’s name, mother’s name, and mother’s maiden last name.

4.  When you meet with your funeral director, bring all of the info listed plus the following:  burial clothing including undergarments and shoes, recent photograph, clergy name and phone number, copy of military discharge (DD214 or equivalent) when applicable to get all benefits from government and all the special discounts that Calumet Park and Rendina Funeral Home give, any applicable life insurance policies along with the phone number of your insurance agent, and the name of your cemetery of choice (Calumet Park – 2018 winner of best cemetery in the country would be an excellent choice) and deeds and contracts with the cemetery.

If you have any questions regarding anything you just read, please call 219-769-8803.  Check out our new website at http://www.mycalumetpark.com

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Spring is here…time to decorate graves for Memorial Weekend … check with the office please before you decorate

Example of what is not allowed at Calumet Park

On March 20, Spring came to NW Indiana.  And as soon as we get a few nice days in a row, many families start thinking of decorating the graves of their loved ones.  As much as we understand the reasoning behind such activity, we want to remind everyone that there are decorating rules at Calumet Park Cemetery regarding what is and is not allowed in the cemetery.

In 1928, before the first burial was made, the founders of Calumet Park Cemetery had to decide on what type of cemetery they wanted to design; for the times they were living in, and for all generations to follow.  Having to set certain rules as far as decorating graves was concerned, a great deal of debate went on as some wanted an “anything goes” type of cemetery, while others felt a park-like setting would offer the best place for showing respect and feeling tranquility when visiting.

Simple, uncluttered graves were as envisioned by the forefathers of the 400 acre cemetery in Merrillville, Indiana.  The rules set down in 1928 have been strictly adhered to by the current generation of owners, all descendants of the original founders of Calumet Park Cemetery.  A testament to those 90-year old decisions has resulted in Calumet Park Cemetery being named the Cemetery of the Year for 2018 by American Cemetery and Cremation magazine; also in their 90th year of publishing.

Cover story of December 2018 issue of American Cemetery and Cremation magazine

The photo shown above is filled with mementos, color, and creativity that meets the needs of the families buried there.  But, multiply this scene by tens of thousands of graves and it would not be difficult to see the formation of a nightmare come to life.  Many cemeteries in the country that have allowed an anything goes decorating policy are spending a great deal of time, money and effort in their attempt to find a legal way out of the chaotic appearances of their grounds after a couple of windy days.  What looked pretty when placed soon becomes an eyesore and a maintenance nightmare.

If you feel that you need to be able to display whatever you choose, then we kindly invite you to search around NW Indiana for a cemetery that gives you comfort in this way of displaying your remembrance of your lost loved ones.  If you want to have a beautiful, well kept, orderly and respectfully dignified final resting place, come visit us.  Calumet Park Cemetery has so many choices to meet anyone’s need and price point.

Any one of our Family Service Counselors would be more than happy to take you on a tour of Calumet Park on the corner of 73rd and Taft in Merrillville.  They will explain what decorations may be used on whatever section that you would be interested in.  Simply put, no artificial decorations are allowed anywhere in the cemetery.   Some sections allow planting of flowers and some permit only cut flowers in approved vases.  The best advice would be, for anyone wishing to do something at a loved one’s final resting place, to check in at the office before spending money on items that are not permitted.

It should be understood that the grounds crew will remove and dispose of any unauthorized grave decorations (or mausoleum or niche) without contacting the owner of the burial rights.  There are thousands upon thousands of graves in just the developed 175 acres of land, and over 50,000 burials.  The sheer size of Calumet Park makes for a special challenge regarding maintenance, and having decorations that are not permitted only adds to the challenge.

If you have questions, please call 219-769-8803 and visit our website at mycalumetpark.com or facebook at mycalumetpark.

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Spring is not far off…geese heading back north after resting at Calumet Park Cemetery…

Cannot wait for warm weather!  For info on upcoming events or on pre-arrangements, call 219-769-8803

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Comment card from recent family served …

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March 4, 2019 · 7:59 pm

The day my dead dad saved my life….

It was an early June day in 1971.  Dad died in 1960 when I was but a boy of 11.

In May of 1971, I finished up my second tour of duty in Vietnam with the Green Berets, 5th Special Forces Group.  I was 22 then, going on 60.  This is not a story of Vietnam so much but how my Dad rescued me from thoughts of suicide.  Stay with me as this story has a happy ending.

Fresh home from the war, my war, as most people who have served have tattooed to their soul who have experienced man’s inhumanity to man up close and personal.  I joined the military in 1968, gung ho to save the world from communism.  I was an innocent, a person whose life was pretty simple up to those Vietnam days.  Post-Vietnam, I returned to my small-town life in upstate New York a changed person.

I was hardened by the things that I saw and things that I did and things that kept me awake at night.  I wanted to be a kid again, and have the experiences of the jungle sucked from my brain.  I felt like my insides were trying to run away from my body.  Anxiety, and what is now better known at PTSD gave me panic attacks.  I had disturbing thoughts and feelings and nightmares.

Before Vietnam, I was all over the God thing.  I believed in all the stories of the bible and all the wonders of Jesus that the nuns and priests brainwashed into us Catholic school kids.  For me, I attended Catholic school my entire life, so I was on board with God and heaven and hell and purgatory, venial sins and mortal sins, and what life was supposed to be about.

Except life away from the good ‘ol U.S of A. did not fit the mold.  So, the day came when I was going to stop running from the ghosts that haunted me every day.  I decided to go to St. Bonaventure Cemetery and tell Dad I was done with it all.  Life, as I could see it at that time, was too much.  I just wanted the pain to stop.  I found his grave and sat with my guitar.  And I talked to him.  I poured out my pain and sorrow and fears and dread.  I prayed that if there was a God, that it was time to prove it because I did not want to live any more.

Miraculously, a peace came over me.  It was almost like a movie flashing through my brain. All the good memories, the pre-war memories, flooded my body and took away my thoughts of suicide.  Dad was there and he saved me.  Dad and God.  Maybe Dad was God and God was Dad.  All I know is that having a place to go where I knew my Dad was at gave me physical, mental, and emotional strength to look for the good in life.

I have always been grateful that Mom laid him to rest at a cemetery as it offered a place for me to go to, and to contemplate life.  I truly believe that everyone should have that same feeling of being able to visit those people that were important to us in life.  I don’t get back to New York much lately, but it gives me peace just to know that Dad is there when I need him.  Even today, from many miles away from his grave, I can transport my being to his gravesite and hear him and God whisper of the glories of life and afterlife.  And what is that worth in silver and gold?

For information on preplanning, call 219-769-8803 or stop by the cemetery.  Its costs nothing to be educated.

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Final Arrangements…and I do mean final!

Regardless of whether one prearranges for their cemetery and funeral needs (advance planning) or leaves such arrangements to those left behind (at-need), this article will offer some basic guidelines.  When friends, relatives or new acquaintances find out that I work at a cemetery, the questions come with the main question being, “How much does it cost?”

To answer this question, I would have to ask a lot of questions in return, throwing the hot potato back at them.  “How much does a house cost, or a car, or an engagement ring or even something as simple as a dozen eggs.”  What is this guy talking about?  Take the eggs, for example.  Are they plain old, average sized eggs?  Are they jumbo sized?  Are they from free range chickens?  And that is just trying to get to the answer of how much do eggs cost.

A better approach to the question of the price of a funeral and cemetery arrangements is to let a person know that they should not spend any more than is necessary to meet their needs, or their budget.  And a budget is a funny thing as it was just proven during the government shut-down that most Americans are but a couple of paychecks away from being unable to meet their financial needs.  Sadly, a great many of the people that come to us unprepared are shocked at the cost of dying.  They lose the luxury of choice.  If one does not have pre-needed their cemetery and funeral arrangements, have guaranteed insurance money to be available when they die, or they outlive their income, or if they have huge medical bills that empty the money stash set aside for a rainy day, they are out of luck.

So, setting the actual cost aside, lets explore all that is necessary to make complete cemetery and funeral arrangements.  By the way, when it comes to funerals, the Federal Trade Commission requires funeral homes give you a copy of their price list when at a funeral home in person, or give you pricing on the phone when asked.

First, what do you want?  Do you want traditional ground burial at a cemetery?  If so, you will need a grave space, an outer container that the casket goes in, and an opening/closing of the grave.  In addition, most people that select ground burial want to place an above ground monument or at least flush memorials that mark the location of a loved one forever.

At the funeral home, most people that choose ground burial want to have a visitation with viewing followed by a funeral committal service at their cemetery.  A committal service is when you commit your loved one to a final resting place.  In Indiana, a funeral director must be present any time a burial takes place with people gathered to say goodbye.  For a funeral service with visitation, a casket would be necessary.  Also, supporting products go hand-in-hand when a funeral is arranged which may include a register book for guests to sign in, prayer cards and envelopes, flowers and quite often, food and drinks.

When you add all of these things together, the average cost of cemetery and funeral goods and services is around $12-$15,000.  Think of planning a wedding, and all of the costs involved.  From a venue, to rings, to wedding dress and attire for the wedding party, to food and music and photography, to guest lists and places for them to stay, to invitations and more.  Most weddings today run $20,000 and more…generally, a lot more.

A wedding is one of life’s biggest events and the final “biggest event” is one’s funeral.  There are many of the same types of things to arrange as a wedding.  The venue (what funeral home and what cemetery), the announcement (obituary), clothing for the decedent and for family that plan on attending, to music and clergy and on-and-on.  Now days, people want a funeral to be an experience and not just a cookie-cutter service that is just like every other funeral they have ever attended.

There will be a lifetime of grieving and learning to live without the deceased loved one.  A funeral is meant as a chance to gather with friends and family and celebrate the life that was lived.  When a person passes, they do not just disappear from the world and from our memories.  We all have a circle of friends and family that will also be grieving and that need a chance to say goodbye.  Believe me, there is nothing that shouts louder that a parent or child or spouse or friend is gone than to see them lying in state.

Arrangements that funeral homes and cemeteries provide are based on the cumulative needs of any given population.  In NW Indiana, seventy percent of the population still want a traditional funeral service followed by interment or entombment in a cemetery.  The other 30% select cremation.  Sometimes cremation is chosen because of money, sometimes for religious reasons and sometimes for ecological reasons.  Regardless, many of those that go with cremation still want and still need a chance to say a proper goodbye.  For those folks, they still want a traditional funeral service with all the trappings, to be followed by cremation.

Once the cremation is complete, the cremains (ashes) will be returned to the family for final disposition.  That can be as simple as keeping them at home, or letting them blow in the wind, or scattered over Lake Michigan.  But so many people have a need to be able to know where their loved one will be for eternity and want a place of peace and reverence that they can visit when the need arises “just to be near” their loved one.

Calumet Park, recent winner of the best cemetery in the country for 2018, has many, many possibilities that meet the needs, the wants and the pocket book of all who come to us.

Rather than try to make a list of meaningless pricing, you are invited to stop in at your convenience and one of our funeral directors or one of our family service people will be happy to take you on a tour of our facilities, and answer all of your questions.  In addition, they can tailor an event, whether grandiose or simple, and give you exact pricing.  It would be then in your hands to decide if you wanted to prearrange and freeze the price or go home and at least know what you would be up against financially to get what will best meet your needs.

Call 219-769-8803 to arrange a personal meeting with one of our professional staff members.  And remember that is better to have your arrangements and not need them than to need them and not be able to afford them.

 

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This is what -18 looked like on January 31, 2019 at the #1 Cemetery in the country…

Just before sunrise at Calumet Park Cemetery at the corner of 73rd and Taft in Merrillville, IN.

One of the local newspapers called the other day as they were planning to run a story about what cemeteries do when it is this cold out.  In talking with Tim McClure, the grounds superintendent for over 14 years and employee for over 32, the answer is much like the line made famous in the baseball movie: “build it and they will come”.  In other words, Calumet Park has never been unavailable for a burial, regardless of the weather.  If a family wants a funeral regardless of the weather, Calumet Park will meet their needs.  That is not to say that the weather hasn’t caused some families to hold off for a burial until better conditions arrived.  The same philosophy applies to our three funeral homes.  Call for more info or if you have any questions.  We are here to serve.   

 

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Life…a poem from Diane Zych printed with her permission

Diane Zych wrote a very beautiful poem that she is willing to share with our readers.  She was blessed with a 50 year marriage and lost her sweet and loving husband this past year.

   Life

It is said that man is destined to die

     from the moment of his birth.

But though I may try, I can not deny

     life’s merriment and mirth.

I have spent hours praising intoxicating flowers,

     and toasting the sinuous sun.

As the moon brightens, my inebriation heightens,

     in celebration of the day that is done.

So I shall be fanciful, lighthearted and gay

     and rejoice in the miracle of life.

For all too soon will come the day

     I shall be sobered by Death’s summoning fife.

Thank you for sharing these meaningful words.

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