An Empty Casket On A New York Street

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The death care business, like any other, is tied together as a community by the shared experience of working in our field. Our community is still a relatively small one, but unique in its ubiquity - our work has or will touch everyone along the way. So anytime our industry breaks into the mainstream news we certainly take notice, often holding our breath, hoping for something positive. The stories run the gamut, but it’s the weird, oddball ones that stand out the most. Like when a nearly-empty casket was dumped on a street in New York City.

And that happened just last May. Right beyond the fence of Evergreens Cemetery - a beautiful, sprawling property in the Bushwick area of the Brooklyn - a local bus driver on his way to work discovered a lidless, disintegrating casket on a dead end street. The police were called to investigate, and the first instinct was to check in with the cemetery next door. Yet all of their coffins were present and accounted for. Thus began hunt to trace the casket back to its not-so-final resting place. If you’ve ever been involved in a remains transfer or exhumation, you know of all the paperwork and approvals involved, so the paper trail was easy to follow.

They eventually found an exhumation had taken place the day before on Staten Island - nearly an hour away - for a standard remains transfer to a new cemetery. As is often custom, the remains were removed and the original casket was replaced. The problem was they didn’t get all of the remains, and the casket obviously wasn’t disposed of correctly.

In a broad sense, we can find the humor in the situation. But we also can understand the experience from the family’s perspective and for them, it’s a trying, traumatic experience. For the cemetery, it’s an embarrassment, and a potential lawsuit. Perhaps the death care industry is more prone to these strange things happening. Or maybe it is just that people pay more attention to them when they do. Either way, as death care professionals, we have to be on top of it.