Darlene Hardison would have loved to have a funeral for her father and uncle and bury them in marked graves at a Michigan cemetery. But she and her family could come up with only enough money to have Hoover Heags and Arthur Hardison cremated, then they left the remains to a Detroit funeral home to bury.
Authorities later discovered Heags’ and Hardison’s cremated remains among nearly 300 others in bags, boxes and other containers inside Cantrell Funeral Home, one of two Detroit funeral homes police and state licensing officials are investigating for allegedly improperly storing remains. Heags had died about a year earlier; Hardison had been dead for about two years.
“The funds were limited … to paying house bills and we just didn’t have the money to cover everything we needed,” Darlene Hardison said at a cemetery where a memorial service was held for some of the people whose cremains authorities found in the now-closed Cantrell Funeral Home on Detroit’s east side. “We were just able to do a cremation and that was it,” Hardison said, wiping away tears.
Hardison’s story illustrates how the funeral homes now under scrutiny may have ended up having so many remains and why it is that families didn’t notice. Many poor families in the U.S. have been priced out of funerals and burials. People who can’t afford those services are left with the cheapest option: cremating their loved one’s remains and leaving it to a funeral home to dispose of them. Others may simply abandon relatives’ remains altogether, leaving it to coroners and funeral homes to pay for cremation and disposal.