November 2019

Page A12 NOVEMBER 2019 FUNERAL HOME & CEMETERY NEWS S ec t i on A Are you state compliant? As Seen At Booth # 1181 The little ones who die are interred in “Baby Trees.” The babies are placed in carved-out spots in large trees, wrapped in a cloth and covered with a palm leaf. The tree will contin- ue to grow and assume these children, symbolic of regrowth. Quite a few children could be placed in one tree. What can this cost a Torajan family? It obviously depends on their social standing. However, all families are expected to follow this expensive tradition. A “middle-class” family can pay $70,000 while an upper-class family might spend $500,000. How do you get this kind of money? All Torojans know that this will be a responsibility, and they save from an ear- ly age, knowing that this will be the honor of their family members. Any debt not paid by the existing survivors will fall on the next generation. Ma’nene is a festival that happens every three years where the family returns to “refresh” their deceased relative. The deceased is removed from their tomb, if they are not still in the home. They are removed from the casket, dressed in new clothes, eyeglasses cleaned, hair dusted. They pose for pic- tures with the surviving family. They may be taken in pro- cession around the community. Their appearance is a direct reflection on the family. They are often mummified and de- hydrated, but other villagers can see the care that was given by the family. The deceased are returned to their tombs with necessities of life such as some food and drink. This is a remote civilization that literally lives for death. Their main reason to acquire money is to honor their loved ones with a funeral that the family, the extended clan, friends and neighbors expect. When your fellow villager loses some- one, you will be expected to attend. To know that family and friends sacrifice so much to hon- or a life lived speaks well of their civility. “But we don’t think about the cost. She will be traveling to the realm of the soul, and we must send her off in our own way. It is our Torjan culture. It is what we do.” –Mesak, son of the late Torojan, Alfrida Lantong Observations Lasting Last Rites “You can make an excuse for a wedding, but you have to come to a funeral.” –Daniel Rantetasak, Torajan villager The squealing pigs, with their legs tied to bamboo poles, are being readied for slaughter. Hundreds of guests gather; the lo- cal family finding space for their stay. The prized water buf- falo are being lovingly tended to as they await their important role. Fifty-five will be butchered to feed the guests, at a pos- sible cost of $1,400 per white water buffalo. The weeklong funeral for Lassi Allo To’dang, a Torajan, be- gins. Tana Toraja, “the land of Toraja,” is in the mountainous re- gion of Southern Sulawesi, Indonesia. It contains hundreds of miles of green jungle with villages that are linked by dirt roads. Funerals are well planned for. Death is expected and a duty for the family to observe Torajan traditions. The funeral is for the family and for many of the villages. Hundreds may join the family and mourn with them. When a Torajan passes, they are treated with a formalde- hyde bathtub solution and subsequent injections. As time passes, they do not decay or putrefy, they mummify. To the family, they have not died, they are only to macula (they are sick). They are still part of the family, greeted and visited, presented with food. Their body is cleaned, dressed in appropriately dignified clothing and their hair is cared for. They may be placed in bed or another setting for recline. Some of these decedents stay for eleven days. Some stay for months or years. The long lingerers are normally placed in a casket for their extended stay. The caskets can be decorat- ed with ornate fabrics, and gold and silver trimmings. Fam- ily and friends are notified to visit and participate in the pro- longed funeral ceremonies. They eventually are placed in the funeral tower which is at the end of a field. Then they are fi- nally placed in their tomb. Alfrida Lantong still resides in her home. This 90-year- old, though, passed away seven years ago. Her son greets her morning and evening, brings her meals and places a light veil over her and gently closes the casket. Her grandchildren regu- By Steven Palmer Steven Palmer entered funeral service in 1971. He is an honors graduate of the New England Institute of Applied Arts & Sciences. He has been licensed on both coasts, he owned the Westcott Funeral Homes of Cottonwood and Camp Verde, AZ, where he remains ac- tive in operations. Steve offers his observations on current funeral ser- vice issues. He may be reached by mail at PO Box 352, Cottonwood, AZ 86326, by phone at (928)634-9566, by fax at (928)634-5156, by e-mail at or through his website at or on Facebook. Funeral Home & Cemetery News Contributors share insights and exchange ideas. B logs larly visit her mummified remains. Her son told National Pub- lic Radio, “We would miss her if she didn’t still live here.” The funeral is seen as any other celebration, such as a going away party. It is not morbid; the family and visitors spend time with and pay attention to the deceased. “Torajans believe that people aren’t really dead when they die and that a profound human connection lasts well beyond death. Death for many is not a brick wall, but a gauze wall,” reported Amanda Bennett of National Geographic. The Torajans traditionally follow Christian belief with a little added Torajan dogma. For example, they believe that their peo- ple use stairs to come down from heaven, which ensures open communication with their creator. There is much planning to do before the public is invited to a funeral. Family, friends and neighbors, hundreds or maybe a thousand, will be visiting. Shelters are assembled for their stay. Food is very important and stands as a status symbol for the mourning family. The albino (white) water buffalo is expected to be served. Some consider buffaloes capable of delivering the soul of the deceased to Puya, their afterlife. The more buffaloes that are sacrificed, the faster their soul reaches its desired destination. They can cost $500 each, but better bred animals will be $1,500 to $2,000. If you butcher sixty, that is $90,000. There are also taxes to be paid for the livestock. The buffalo are sacrificed with great ceremony. They are cared for with kindness until they are sacrificed. They are paraded in and tethered in a common area where many will watch as their throat is slit, and their life bleeds out into the ground. A team will quickly butcher the carcass, prepare it and distribute it to the visitors. Some of the meat is saved to be served to the deceased. The head is removed and placed before the bereaved family’s res- idence. The number of heads show the status of the family and their deceased member. Pigs are also brought in and sacrificed in even greater numbers. Today, the celebration can include DJs playing music and ven- dors selling refreshments and cigarettes. It is still a relatively iso- lated area, but younger family members have smartphones. 83-year old Yohana Pala’langa, whose son is a Presbyterian minister, died and was prepared. Five months later, a thousand family members and their relatives came for the funeral. Those who brought pigs and buffaloes registered them with the tax of- ficials. Some of the offered animals were slaughtered immediate- ly to feed those gathered. The deceased guest of honor was in a nineteen-foot bamboo funeral tower. The body cannot be buried until the eleventh day. The casket is then placed in a cave on a cliff. The family hires a carver to make a tau tau, a carved wood image of the deceased. An artist will charge $1,200 for the wooden image representing the deceased. The tau tau is placed on the outside edge of the cave to signify the deceased and to stand guard. agement team and was instrumental in creating the gener- al manager model and regional structure by which we now operate. With Jim’s departure, the three Divisional Presi- dents will report directly to the CEO, further streamlining our management structure. We are grateful to Jim for his efforts and we wish him well in his new endeavors. “The hiring of the Johnson Consulting Group is an impor- tant step in our process of formalizing our divestiture strat- egy. For the past month, the Johnson Consulting team has been engaged in a comprehensive review of our asset base and is now actively exploring various options to optimize our portfolio while deleveraging our balance sheet. “These actions are aligned with our turnaround plan as we continue to execute on progressing our core initiatives of re- ducing costs and improving sales and operational efficiency.” Jeff DiGiovanni, prior to joining StoneMor, was Man- aging Director at a leading accounting and transaction advisory firm with offices in Philadelphia, New York City and Princeton, NJ. StoneMor Partners L.P., headquartered in Trevose, is an owner and operator of cemeteries and funeral homes in the United States, with 321 cemeteries and 90 funeral homes in 27 states and Puerto Rico. For additional infor- mation, please visit StoneMor Partners L.P. Elevates Jeffrey DiGiovanni to Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Jeffrey DiGiovanni TREVOSE,PA— StoneMor Partners L.P. (NYSE: STON) has elevated Chief Accounting Officer Jeffrey DiGiovanni to Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, com- years of public accounting experience. Garry Herdler spearheaded a vital initia- tive during his time here, negotiating and completing the transactions to recapi- talize our balance sheet. He has also led a comprehen- sive performance improve- ment plan that will con- tinue to be his main area of focus. Jim Ford has been a valued member of the man- bining the roles of Chief Accounting and Chief Fi- nancial Officer. DiGiovan- ni replaces Garry Herdler , who will transition to a con- sulting role with the Part- nership through the end of the year and focus exclu- sively on cost reductions and productivity improve- ments. In an addition- al cost reduction measure, StoneMor will eliminate the position of Chief Operat- ing Officer. As a result, Jim Ford will depart the Part- nership to pursue other in- terests. At the same time, StoneMor announced it has retained Johnson Consult- ing Group to assist with po- tential asset sales. StoneMor’s President and Chief Executive Officer, Joe Redling , commented, “We’re delighted to elevate Jeff to CFO. Jeff’s been our Chief Accounting Of- ficer since September 2018 and played a key role in get- ting us current in our finan- cial filings. He has built a strong team at StoneMor, and he brings more than 15