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Catholic Vancouver Nov. 29, 2017

Cemetery helps family members of 28 deceased say goodbye

By Agnieszka Ruck

Friends and family members watch as the ashes of 28 deceased loved ones are laid to rest in the Crypt of Holy Angels at Gardens of Gethsemani Nov. 25. (Photos by Agnieszka Krawczynski / The B.C. Catholic)

SURREY—A woman coping with the deaths of four family members is glad to have a little more peace.

Marguerite Murray has finally laid to rest the ashes of her husband, father, and two sons, after keeping their remains at home for two decades.

“It’s wonderful to do this,” said Murray, grateful to Gardens of Gethsemani cemetery in Surrey, which offered to inter the remains of all four of her loved ones for free Nov. 25.

“We had ashes sitting everywhere,” collected since the first family member died in 1996. A few years ago, while moving, she lost the ashes of her father – and eventually found them again. Now, Murray is grateful they are all are resting in a sacred place where she can’t lose them. So is her daughter-in-law, Ingrid Potter.

“We had them for so long because we weren’t sure. Nothing ever felt right,” said Potter, whose husband, Murray’s son, died in 2012.

Finally interring them at the cemetery “was a relief,” Potter said. “I’m at peace now. I know they have been blessed and they are in the life beyond.”

It’s been part of the grieving process for Murray, whose husband died in 2015. “One day at a time, it’s all I can say. I’ve got support which is great.”

The late Murrays and Potters were four of a total 28 people whose remains were buried for free at the cemetery Nov. 25. Gardens of Gethsemani began offering the service in 2015 for people who were keeping cremated remains at home.

Father James Wolnik offers a short committal service.

“It is only right and proper that we treat remains with great reverence, because this was a temple of the Holy Spirit,” Father James Wolnik told those gathered at the cemetery Nov. 25.

The Vatican released guidelines one year ago stating that keeping the ashes of family members “in a domestic residence is not permitted” except in “grave and exceptional cases.” Father Wolnik told those gathered he was “delighted” they chose to have their loved ones “properly interred.”

“We reverently lay to rest the remains of our loved ones who died. It is only fitting and proper that we do that in sacred ground, for we shall be united once again,” he said.

Among the small crowd in the cemetery chapel was Anne Christian, come to say goodbye to the ashes of a longtime friend. “She wanted to have her ashes spread at VanDusen gardens” in Vancouver, said Christian. “I just couldn’t do it because you’d have to do it on the sly. You can’t do it legally.”

Uncomfortable with sneaking into the gardens after dark, Christian kept her friend’s remains in her bedroom closet, unsure of what to do with them. She felt relieved and at peace when she gave them up to be interred at Gardens of Gethsemani.

“I wanted her to be in consecrated area. She was brought up a Catholic and left the Church for a while, but made her peace with the Church before she died,” said Christian.

“I might miss her, but I think this is where she belongs.”

Grounds foreman Mike Thompson carefully lifts a box of cremated remains into the Crypt of Holy Angels.