Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Six feet above

Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip, Illinois is under investigation by the FBI after 4 workers were charged with exhumation of many human remains and then the re-selling or those burial plots. It apparently is the largest crime scene ever in the state of Illinois, with the cemetery's size of over 100 acres. The Feds believe that as many as 300 or more bodies may have been disturbed in this process, and the majority of the cemetery is closed while the investigation continues.
First off, having worked in the cemetery/funeral business, or death-care for those in the industry, it's deeply disturbing to even imagine a criminal act like such ever taking place. A running side "joke" throughout cemeteries is that when you run out of space, you'll just dig up the plots from pre-1899 and re-use them. It was just that. A joke. And everybody got a good laugh out of it. Never would anybody ever consider actually carrying out full disinterments for the sake of a couple extra grave spaces. These days however, nothing is immune, no matter how immoral or unethical it may be. Shoot, it's not like it's the first time either.
While working in Memphis I saw firsthand the effects of scandal in the cemetery business. Clayton Smart and his group of cohorts were responsible for the Forest Hill fraudulent scam and theft of pre-paid funeral plans. All it did for that city was completely turn residents away from the aspect of pre-planning their funeral & cemetery arrangements. It may sound crazy to most people but as much as it costs to live, it costs a hell of a lot to die. And for everybody who say "just do with me whatever, throw me out back in a sheet." It doesn't work like that. Their is a substantial savings to taking care of these guaranteed expenses ahead of time. But after this problem in Illinois, and previous in Memphis, who is going to trust the death-care industry? It's a shame that in this world we live, people will try to take advantage of anybody, anytime, even on the worst days of their lives.
You now have families with loved ones who may or may not have been displaced, and no idea where the remains may have been taken. That's a burden that no apologies, excuses, investigation, trial, or anything will ever be able to fix.

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