Content here represents the voice of SIGNATURE SUNSETS, an informational initiative designed to broaden and brighten horizons in the funerary domain.

The material is an outgrowth of a pre-planning reference book, Pondering Leaves: Composing and Conveying Your Life Story's Epilogue, written by the author of this blog.


Saturday, November 9, 2013


JOURNEY JOURNAL... Albuquerque, New Mexico


A stop on our necropolis expedition was an enthralling jaunt through the Sunset Memorial Park affiliated with the French Funeral Homes, with which Gail Rubin has collaborative ties.  Since its inception, this business has been family operated through multiple generations. 

The original layout was conceived according to a prototype introduced by Forest Lawn Cemetery in California.  That is, the idea was to establish park-like grounds rather than a tombstone-dotted burial domain. The notion of a memorial park materialized here eighty-five years ago and the first burial was in 1929. 

In recent years there have been additions that proclaim modernity.  In 2007, inauguration of the Centennial Urn Garden celebrated one hundred years of service to the community by the French establishment.  

The prominent adobe-style architecture of walled partitions is the backdrop for granite-faced wall niches and ground burials of urns amidst pergolas and landscaped gardens bearing varieties of foliage and fountains. Sunlight permeates this open-air enclave, which has chapel and reception space that can accommodate up to one hundred guests.

Within the Centennial Garden there’s a four-sided raised garden bed that bespeaks the influence of the University of New Mexico as an Albuquerque landmark.  It has wide borders of granite in the school colors of cherry and silver, and a statue in the center replicates its official mascot, a lobo (the Spanish word for wolf), which also relates to the name of the campus newspaper, The Daily Lobo.  Though this is the likely place for urn burials of people with university ties, anyone can choose the site.  Some may opt for it simply because they like the effects of the granite colors, or maybe it would be reassuring to have one’s bodily substance hanging out under the watchful protection of a wolf.   

The Rose Garden, located behind the park’s mausoleum, allows for an alternative option of scattering.  Anyone who chooses it can have names, dates, and sentiments written on a bench in the Centennial Garden.

An atmosphere of comfort and color characterizes the Chester T. French Memorial Mausoleum (named in tribute to the founder), which is enhanced by stained glass windows, plants, and a sea of floral decorations attached to crypt surfaces.  

A chapel is available for services here.

Within the building is the Times & Seasons Columbarium, a room lined floor to ceiling with glass-fronted cremation niches that accommodate urns and personal mementos.  

Centrally located couches invite meditative reflection. 

Flying in on the wings of a new trend, pet services were introduced recently.  Management of animal loss is handled within a separate building, called Best Friends.  It houses a viewing room for visitation, cremation equipment, and memorial products for sale.  Pet cremations are either private (a single animal as the only occupant of the retort), separate (more than one separated by metal dividers, but cremated together), or community (multiple animals not separated). 

Land designated for burial of both human and pet remains is nearby.  It is the Best Friends Forever section where people may choose burial with or without accompanying cremated animal substance, either in the ground or in a columbarium niche.  

A prominent aboveground ossuary is exclusively for collective pet remains.  

Niche spaces solely for animals may be used to hold as many cremated remains as will fit.  Sometimes they are contained within velvet pouches. 

By seeing what this memorial park has to offer, a pre-planner can witness the reality of adaptations that are taking place within the funeral industry.  The burgeoning trend toward cremation has been addressed here, as well as the growing tendency to acknowledge grief that’s triggered by the loss of a beloved animal companion.  Fortunately, changing times render augmented services, even in handling matters of death.  


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