HOUSTON--If dying is a part of living, then honoring the dead is an integral part of grieving. But a number of Texans continue to grieve and seek closure, and blame funeral homes for adding to their pain.
“No one deserves to be treated this way,” said Leslie Robinson, whose mother Grace died at the age of 77 in June. “I haven’t been able to really grieve like I wanted to.”
After her mother’s passing, Robinson selected Ryland C. Scott Funeral Services to handle the memorial service and cremation. She met with the owner, Ryland C. Scott, to discuss the details of the event.
“He was just a real mild-mannered guy and made you feel comfortable,” said Robinson.
But she started to become concerned when Scott failed to provide the death certificate and the Urn containing her mother’s ashes in the agreed upon time frame.
“Without the death certificate and my mother’s remains, it was a very incomplete process for me,” Robinson said.
Eventually, Robinson located the crematorium that handled her mother’s body. An employee agreed to meet with her in the parking lot of a gasoline station to deliver the ashes. Instead of an urn, Robinson was giving a brown box.
“I felt like this isn’t the way to do this,” said Robinson. “This isn’t the way people should recover the remains of their loved ones.”
When reached over the phone, Scott blamed his company’s difficulties on financial hardship.
“It’s been an extremely tough time in the business,” said Scott. “I deeply apologize for the inconvenience and the situation that has taken place with Ms. Robinson," Scott said.
Robinson has filed a complaint against Scott with the Texas Funeral Service Commission, the state agency that licenses and regulates funeral homes in Texas. The commission has two licensed inspectors who oversee more than 1,500 funeral homes and crematoriums statewide.
According to TFSC, Ryland C. Scott has been cited and fined in the past, for deceptive billing practices and poor customer service. They were even ordered to shut down once, but the state rescinded the order a month later.
“You have instances where there’s misidentification of bodies, or the wrong body is delivered to the church,” said Waverly Nolley, an attorney who has sued funeral homes for making painful mistakes. “I think the state needs to hire more personnel to police these establishments.”
The Better Business Bureau in Houston advises consumers to do their research.
“They should find out what is death and dying and how does it work,” said Dan Parsons, the president of the BBB. “They should get ready ahead of time so they’ll have very few things to do when the time comes.”
The TFSC has a website with a complaint form. Their webpage also spells out the regulations that govern funeral homes and crematoriums. A TFSC official said the commission does the best job possible given budget constraints.
But Robinson said she believes she and other people continue to be let down after a loved one dies.
“You just don’t do this to people who have lost a loved one,” she said.