The thought of throwing away abandoned urns was heartbreaking to one Nevada pastor, so she chose to become the keeper of unclaimed ashes.
Reverend Grace Thompson with Las Vegas United Church of Christ, who is also a hospice chaplain, has been traveling across the U.S. for the past three years in order to give cremated remains a proper burial.
“People’s lives matter even in death and we should honor that,” Rev. Thompson told CBN News. “We have to respect all life, from birth to death.”
She also strives to ensure that urns containing the remains of veterans are laid to rest with full military honors.
Three urns were recently discovered inside the bedroom of a deceased resident at an assisted living facility in Las Vegas. The manager didn’t know what to do with them and contacted Rev. Thompson for assistance.
Thompson found out the urns were actually a family from Los Angeles, California – a mother, father, and their son. The men were veterans.
“People tend to hold urns for some reason,” the reverend explained. “There’s no immediate burial. That’s what happened with this family. The remaining brother had the urn of his mom, dad, and brother and didn’t leave instructions of what to do with them.”
Thompson was told by multiple cemeteries to simply dispose of the urns.
“‘Throw it in the trash.’ That hurts me as a minister that someone would even say that,” she said. “The story of Jesus shows us how life and death are so important. Somehow in our world, we’ve forgotten that. Death has become disposable.”
She added, “Our main goal as Christians is to make sure they have honor, respect, and dignity at the time of their death. We are humans that God made in His likeness and image … that’s what I see. Death makes us equal in more ways than one.”
Reverend Thompson and the Veterans of Foreign Wars arranged a funeral for the urns on July 13, making sure the military family got the recognition they deserved for their service.
And Thompson’s passion has become a movement within her church. They are launching a ministry called “Womb to Tomb” on September 15.
“It was only by a miracle of God,” she told CBN News. “He makes a way for His work. Then when my church picked it up I was deeply touched. Now I have the resources and connections.”
Rev. Thompson is also creating material that will be distributed to senior centers and nursing homes so they know who to contact when an unclaimed urn is found.
She said it’s a lengthy process for her to become the guardian of an unclaimed urn which can take up to six weeks.
“We’re trying to be an educational resource for families that are caught with the dilemma of not knowing what to do with the remains. My church decided this would be our core project because the need is so great,” she said.
“No one knows what to do if they have urns in their homes, even of animals. With death, we don’t prepare for it. We should be the leaders and show the world not to be afraid. We should be prepared, have our arrangements in order. Place the packet by that urn so whomever finds it will know what to do.”
Thompson will even arrange for the proper burial of a homeless person.
“Anybody and everybody that doesn’t have a loved one to bury them,” the reverend noted. “My church will pay for the cremation of an unclaimed body that has passed.”
The ministry also receives financial support for its resources and burials through fundraising, grants, and donations.
“It has turned into its own amazing ministry. I’m proud to be the guardian of urns that are unclaimed,” she concluded.
To find out more about Womb to Tomb, contact Rev. Thompson at [email protected] She can also be reached at 702-400-1725.
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