Bay Area Cemeteries and Funeral Homes Accommodate Diverse Funeral Rites

April 8, 2004

Source: The Mercury News

On April 8, 2004 The Mercury News reported, "In the Bay Area, where whites are no longer the majority, diversity is redefining communities for the dead as well as the living. From Richmond to Fremont to San Jose, funeral homes are building rooms where Indian families can wash their deceased with honey and yogurt before cremations, and supplying special pots so Vietnamese families can safely burn the paper money (artificial) their ancestors may need in the afterlife. Cypress Lawn Memorial Park, which opened Hillside Gardens last year, doesn't stop at providing facilities to meet different cultural needs. It also hosts elaborate ceremonies for Memorial Day and Dia de los Muertos and recently welcomed thousands of people for Ching Ming, the Chinese ancestor-worshiping day. Some cemeteries are also changing policies that once prized tidy -- and easily maintained -- lawns so visitors can leave stones on Jewish grave sites and tangerines on Chinese ones. Accommodating different cultures is a trend sprouting across America, said Bob Fells, external chief operating officer with the International Cemetery and Funeral Association. 'The cemeteries have become more sensitive and say: These aren't just rocks; they have meaning,' Fells said. But celebrating diversity is not only a matter of evolving cultural sensitivities but also smart business. White families who once preferred plots and mausoleums are increasingly opting for the simpler option of cremation, which can cost less than $2,000. Today it's families of other cultures that often choose the more lavish arrangements, which can start at $10,000."