Home invasions. Burglary. These events often leave people feeling deeply violated, even if nothing of value was stolen. Their safest space, their home, no longer feels the same.
In Clarksville, Tennessee this week, one family was devastated when they realized a burglar had stolen the ashes of their deceased child. And in Charlotte, North Carolina, David Bennett came home from the hospital to discover a thief had broken into his home and stolen the ashes of his son Sean, who drowned in 2008. In both cases, the victims understood why the thieves stole valuables like jewelry, video game consoles, and TVs, but they struggled to understand what kind of person would steal human remains.
Sadly, it happens more often than you think.
According to the National Funeral Directors Association, cremations are quickly becoming the norm in the United States. In the past decade, national cremation rates have risen by 20%. And as cremation becomes more commonplace, a number of memorial companies have started offering unique sympathy gifts and cremation urns — the kind of tasteful memorial keepsake a thief might mistake for something he or she can sell.
In Charlotte, David Bennett had just spent several days visiting with his wife in the hospital. His wife was recently diagnosed with cancer, and when he came home to wash up, he made the grim discovery.
“My son’s ashes, my son passed away, and that’s all I had of him was his ashes and they stole that, too, I mean how grimy can a person be…Them ashes were supposed to be with my ashes when I die, that was the only thing I have of my son besides pictures, that meant the world to me.”
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police say they are hunting for suspects. In the meantime, Bennett is hoping the thieves will return the ashes, anonymously if need be. The same story played out in Clarksville, where an unnamed family came home to discover their apartment had been vandalized and robbed. The cremation urn that held their child’s remains was shaped like a kneeling angel, and now they’re asking for the public’s help in locating the urn.