June 6, 2018
Brian McCullough, Ottawa Citizen
In the back hallways and rooms of the Beechwood National Memorial Centre at Beechwood Cemetery in Vanier, in the spaces members of the public don’t normally see, there are signs on the walls that convey a simple, yet powerful message to staff: RESPECT.
This single word speaks to the deep regard Beechwood holds for the dignity of loved ones who have passed, and for the well-being of their bereaved families no matter what their cultural background or religious faith. Since 1873, this not-for-profit funeral home and cemetery — a designated National Historic Site — has made respect their watchword in providing funerary services to all Canadians.
“We treat everyone like a VIP here,” says Beechwood director of funeral operations Geneviève Lalonde. “Every family is important, and every death is worth memorializing. We help families cherish the memories.”
Funerals are important cultural events that bring family and friends together to grieve the loss of someone who has passed. They are the first step in a shared healing process; Lalonde and the entire Beechwood team work diligently to manage a wide variety of commemorative services so that families have control in the way they choose to memorialize the passing of a family member.
There was a time when funerals were almost always dark, sombre affairs conducted in hushed tones, but no longer. While traditional ceremonies still have their place and are always handled with the utmost of care at Beechwood, the industry has seen something of a shift toward people seeking more personalized, joyous celebrations of life for their loved ones — and even for themselves.
“When people approach the funeral industry, they’re not always sure what to expect,” says Nick McCarthy, the company’s director of marketing, communications and community outreach. “But it’s their decision on what they want done. If they want to play The Rolling Stones in our Sacred Space, go ahead.”