Eternal Hills Celebrates Lives

By Kim Hill

Imagine a catered event taking place in a facility transformed to resemble a stadium complete with Atlanta Falcons paraphernalia and the Falcons’ theme song playing. Imagine this event being live-streamed so those who are unable to attend can access it remotely. Now imagine that this event is actually a funeral service to remember and celebrate the life of a loyal Falcons fan. “There is pretty much no limit to the things that we do,” says Sabrina Blackston, Funeral Home Manager for Eternal Hills Funeral Home and Cremation Services. ”People are not going to the churches for services as much – they are now doing things in a funeral home or are opting to do a celebration of life event where they have a service that truly reflects the life of the decedent.”

The Life Well-Celebrated Event is unique to the Dignity Memorial corporation brand. Eternal Hills offers a reception room, an event coordinator who will decorate that area to reflect whatever hobbies or interests the decedent had, and a caterer to serve favorite fare. Music can be whatever the decedent loved, from Elvis to Mahalia Jackson. “We provide personalization,” says Mrs. Blackston. “We’re honoring the life of the loved one by displaying the things that reflect his or her life, but we are also giving the family something to truly celebrate. It’s more of a joyful occasion; that’s what more people are wanting.”

More people are also choosing cremation. “We do still have some from the earlier generation who believe in the traditional funeral, and we often do traditional funerals before cremation to satisfy both sides of the generation,” says Mrs. Blackston. “But we’re doing cremation memorial services now more than anything. We also have a lot of families doing cremations and no services at all.”

Mrs. Blackston says most people who come in do not know what they want and the most frequently asked question is What is this going to cost? She explains it is a common question because so much is unknown about the process, and that is why pre-planning is encouraged. “It allows you to have that conversation before you have to sit at the table with us and guess what your loved one would have wanted. Families should discuss their final wishes and how they want them to be honored. When you make the selections in advance, the biggest decision you will have to make at the time of need is the day and time.” Pre-planning can also save money by locking in at today’s rates and taking advantage of promotional periods that offer discounts. Those with children or grandchildren who have pre-arrangements with Dignity will have services covered should a dependent child under the age of 18 pass away.

Another thing that differentiates Dignity from other service providers is a series of provider benefits, including a 100% service guarantee. As the largest network of funeral and cemetery providers across North America and Canada, Dignity offers national transferability of benefits to families with pre-arrangements who move more than 75 miles away. The Bereavement Travel Program arranges flights, hotel rooms, and rental cars for family members coming to a service from out of state. Additionally, a resource library is available for grief management and a 24-hour Compassion Hope Line offers grief support with a skilled, licensed counselor for family and attendees of the service. “We try to make it as seamless and easy as possible,” says Mrs. Blackston. “We provide ministers if necessary, we assist with obituaries and flowers, and we create a photo movie for you. Anything the family needs, we’re here.”

Every May, Eternal Hills partners with the Boy Scouts of America and the American Legion to hold a Memorial Day service in the cemetery to honor veterans. The second Saturday of December marks an annual remembrance service for all families served over the past year. Eternal Hills participates in many area events, such as those hosted by Snellville Tourism and Trade and career days at local elementary schools, and also supports Gwinnett Habitat for Humanity and Rock Goodbye Angel, an organization that offers support to families of pregnancy and infant loss. “We’re very community and service oriented because that’s really, truly where our passion is,” says Mrs. Blackston. “We care about our community and we care about every last person that we serve. People have to know that we’re here to help in whatever way that may be.”

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