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Caring for families in a time of need: Meet Natalie, a memorial specialist

Planning a memorial for a loved one is a difficult task. For many, it’s a relief to have someone guide them through the process — finding a way to honor the life of the person they’ve lost and moving through their grief. 

Learn more about how Better Place Forests provides this kind of support by getting to know one of our memorial specialists, Natalie.

From hospitality to forest memorials

With a background in event management and hospitality, Natalie has been planning events for most of her career. As a memorial specialist, she now applies this expertise to help families customize, plan, and host their forest memorials with Better Place Forests Flagstaff.

Natalie was drawn to the role as a memorial specialist because of the opportunity to serve others and deliver a world-class hospitality service. However, it was the concept — offering a living memorial as an end-of-life option — that truly captured her attention. She loves being able to apply her experience, give back to the environment, and support people as they create a meaningful, nature-filled legacy for themselves and their families. 

"As I went through the interview process and learned more about what BPF is doing, I became more and more entranced and thought, ‘This is really great stuff that they're doing.’ I felt that I could bring my background, my love of nature and serving others and help guide families through various points in their life journey,” she says.

A support system during the planning process

As a memorial specialist at Better Place Forests Flagstaff, Natalie works with people who have lost a loved one and have reached out to plan a memorial. The planning process typically takes four to six weeks, during which time Natalie works on collecting important documents, such as a death certificate, scheduling a memorial date, and finalizing details of the memorial marker (should they choose one). She helps customers select readings for their memorial by suggesting a variety of reading she thinks they may like.

Read more: Remembering Andre: A forest memorial in Flagstaff

On the day of the event, Natalie helps facilitate the forest memorial. The first part of the program takes place at the memorial table, where ashes are mixed with the soil from the forest floor. She invites the family and guests to participate, if they’d like, in the mixing of the ashes, so they can add soil and wildflowers to the vessel as they please. They’ll then make their way comfortably to the memorial tree, where the memorial continues and concludes. In the future, the family can return to the tree to enjoy the forest, picnic, and remember their loved one. 

“We are blessed that we can offer these experiences in the beauty of the forest, where you hear the wind blowing, and you see the trees dancing in the wind. During one memorial, the aspen leaves were coming down fairly heavily. It was almost like snow, and they were just swirling around us as the family laid their loved one to rest. It added to the majesty of the experience, the beauty that the forest brings, and each of our forests are so unique,” she says.

Finding peace of mind

For many people, it’s a new experience to have a memorial in a forest. While people are increasingly choosing cremation, there isn’t always a clear answer as to how to memorialize and treat those ashes with care. With the support of a memorial specialist, more and more families are finding the answer that works best for them.

As they go through the process or the experience, you can see them start to breathe a little bit easier as they're taking it all in. "Guests always comment on how special it is to have time in nature with friends and family to remember their loved one," Natalie adds. They seem to be very touched by the care that this experience offers to them. 

“It kind of sounds a little cliche, but I feel like our team, our company, everyone, they care so much. And I think that really translates throughout the entire process, from the initial tour, to customer care, to the people you meet when you arrive at the forest,” says Natalie. 

To learn more about planning and to select your personal memorial tree, schedule an online forest tour