By LeRae Haynes –
Being a voice for a loved one lost, as well as for the family left behind, is at the heart of Cariboo Chilcotin Funeral Services. Serving the Cariboo-Chilcotin and B.C. central coast including Bella Coola and Quesnel, they look after families on every aspect of a death, from burials, cremations, and monument sales to funeral services and celebrations of life.
“Death is a hard thing,” said funeral director Dave Wilson. “Most people go through it once or twice in their lives; we go through it every day. We’re here to make this process as easy and meaningful as possible, taking stress off the family so they can grieve in peace.”
Cariboo Chilcotin Funeral Services opened June 2015, and from the beginning they’ve taken time to find the best options and solutions for their clients. “Every family is different, Wilson explained. “We talk a while to find out about the deceased and the family and what they might want or need for a funeral service; we explain how important it is for the deceased’s friends to come and say goodbye.
“We are as individual as the families—we take time to get to know what will work best for them when it comes to a service,” he added. “We can provide a space and even a PowerPoint presentation. We work to take off the worry and stress and just let them say goodbye. That’s why we’re here.”
They even do follow up to help families with paperwork. “We help with things like Canada Pension Plan death benefits and spousal allowances, notify all government agencies about the passing, and help with wills,” he noted. “Sometimes people call me a year later to touch base.”
The significant training and education required to become a licensed funeral director and embalmer is intensive. “We take the same courses as a doctor does for two years. We know how every organ works, every bone, and how every disease affects a person, in order to offer the best individual and professional service possible,” Wilson continued.
“We also have to know a lot about the law—we take two years of law, too, as well as grief counselling.”
Beyond training and expertise, he said that integrity is top of his list of priorities. “When dealing with people who are vulnerable, traumatized, in pain and grief you have to have integrity,” he explained. “My primary job is to look after the deceased, but also the family.”
A truly innovative aspect of Cariboo Chilcotin Funeral Services is the opportunity for families to have a living, beautiful tribute put in place. “In partnership with Forests for Tomorrow (FFT), we arrange for10 trees to be planted in memory of their loved one. FFT works with the BC government to plant trees where there have been forest fires; when we opened here we decided we wanted to do something for our local area. For every cremation we donate funds to have 10 trees planted,” he continued.
“We’ve done over 300 cremations here at the Five Rivers Crematorium and have planted over 3,000 trees in memory of loved ones.”
He said one Cariboo family wanted to plant the trees themselves—a gesture that meant something to them. “FFT gave them 10 trees and showed them where they could plant,” he added. “They can go back and visit those trees and know what they mean.”
They also offer biodegradable urns that will grow flowers or a tree when buried—a beautiful tribute to both a loved one and the environment. “The more you can keep from polluting, the better the world will be,” he said.
Supporting local business is also important, he said, explaining that 90 per cent of the caskets they sell, and the urns and markers are made locally.
The name of the crematorium came about because the birthplace of the Sikh community is a state in Northwest India known as the Punjab, translating to the Land of Five Rivers. Cremation is an important part of the Sikh sacred death ritual, and the Williams Lake Sikh community built the Five Rivers Crematorium and gave it to the City.
“What we want most from the time someone walks in the door is to help make things easier for them throughout the process,” said Wilson. “We hear often from people, ‘thank you so much; you made this easy for us.’
“We give you a chance to say goodbye in the most meaningful way possible; we help give you peace,” he said.
“When you’re grieving there’s someone not only looking after your loved one; there’s someone looking after you.”
For more information about Cariboo Chilcotin Funeral Services, visit www.cariboochilcotin.ca, email email@example.com or phone (250) 392-3234.
LeRae Haynes is a freelance writer, song writer, community co-ordinator for Success by 6, member of Perfect Match dance band, and instigator of lots of music with kids.