Their souls left long ago.
Their bodies stayed here.
Their families put their faith in a funeral home on Detroit’s east side.
But then, earlier this year, their remains were discovered, still in the funeral home months and even years after their deaths. At first, it was a few bodies. Then, the cremated remains of more than a hundred. Then, tucked away in an attic, investigators found the remains of several fetuses.
The shock still hasn’t worn off. The full investigation into what happened isn’t yet over.
Today, there was a memorial.
Today, they were laid to rest.
Laid to rest in five grey caskets, the middle one draped in the American flag. Light from an overcast sky pouring in through tall windows in a small chapel. White carnations.
A list of nearly 250 names. 250 cremated remains, split among the five caskets at Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Detroit.
Pastor Louis Prues of Jefferson Avenue Presbyterian Church in Detroit was the first of several faith leaders to eulogize them.
“The events that got us to this day, while sad, and even maddening and difficult to understand, is not nearly as important as what we do this day,” Prues said.
What they did this day was to offer prayers, and read aloud the names.
For those whose remains still haven’t been identified, they simply said, “Unidentified loved one.”
Not all of the remains came with identification.
Brian Joseph has been one of the people working to identify the remains since April.
“Each one of them deserved a respectful burial,” Joseph says. “And that process went one step at a time.”
And Joseph says the work continues. He’s head of Verheyden Funeral Homes, which took over the process of identifying and laying to rest the remains from the Cantrell Funeral Home.
Cantrell isn’t the only funeral home in Detroit where remains have been discovered. Investigators also found remains of fetuses at Perry Funeral Home. The governor announced a new team this week to step up inspections and investigations of funeral homes across the state.
Brian Joseph says he’ll keep working to identify the remains found at Cantrell, and he’ll keep working to notify families.
Dozens of family members were at the memorial on Friday.
“I am overjoyed,” says Darlene Hardison. Her father, Hoover Heags, was among those whose remains were found at the Cantrell Funeral Home. So were her uncle’s. His name was Arthur L. Hardison.
“You know I didn’t know it was going to happen this way,” Hardison says. “I just didn’t know. But I am so overjoyed that it did. Because now, they have they final resting place. And I am so thankful.”
Hardison’s father and uncle will remain in rest at Mt. Olivet. The cemetery has offered space at no cost to the families. About 20 of those who were memorialized Friday are military veterans. Their remains will be moved to the Great Lakes National Cemetery, where there will be another service for them on Veteran's Day.