A case of mingled ashes disgusted, upset and saddened a family in New Mexico whose matriarch died on September 23.
Amy Salazar, who lives in Sapello near Las Vegas, NM, said two funeral directors failed to notice the ashes of their mother-in-law, 74-year-old Carmen Torres, during a custody change and were somehow mistaken for the ashes of another family belong.
“It’s just terrible,” said Salazar on Friday. “We have no words to describe it.”
Salazar said she was not given the name of the other family, but they said they had already distributed her mother-in-law’s ashes. When the other family found out about the mishap, they tried to pick up some ashes and return them to Torres’ relatives, Salazar said.
The result was a mixture of ashes, dirt, a pine needle and a worm.
The funeral home that cremated the body was the Berardinelli Family Funeral Service of Santa Fe, she said, while Rogers Mortuary of Las Vegas handled the funeral arrangements.
Two representatives of Berardinelli declined to comment in detail. “We are aware of the situation,” said Ginene Trujillo. “We strive to serve all of our families, including this family.”
Another representative, Andrew Rawls, said: “I am not free to discuss family situations.”
Rogers Mortuary officials didn’t report any phone calls late last week.
Salazar said family members noticed on October 2 that the number on the coin or identification disc that accompanied their ash bag did not match the number on the papers they had from Rogers Mortuary.
She said she called Berardinelli that day and sent a photo of the CD at the request of an employee of the company. The next day it became clearer that another family had the ashes of Torres and Salazar’s family had the ashes that belonged to them.
Immediately after the Rosary for Torres on October 3, Salazar said a Berardinelli employee had informed her that the ashes had been distributed.
The family was in shock, she said, and canceled Torres’ funeral the next day.
“We didn’t have any remains to bury,” she said.
On October 4th, they accepted the materials that the other family had saved. One or both funeral directors offered to pay for a tombstone, but they didn’t need one, Salazar said. Torres’ daughter Sandra Baca has held the remains of Torres.
Salazar said, as far as she could tell, both funeral directors bore some responsibility for the mix-up.
Salazar’s husband Luis said he was “heartbroken”. He said his mother asked him to build a cedar box for her ashes and she picked a location in the family burial ground.
“My mother was a brave woman when she died and we respected her wishes,” he said. But they couldn’t quite pull through because of the mix-up, and “there is no degree for either me or the family.”
Salazar said the family was considering having the material scientifically analyzed in hopes of finding out how much Carmen Torres ashes it contained.