Fairhaven Blog

Things of interest around Fairhaven.

Always in Our Hearts

- Friday, December 19, 2014

For the past two evenings Waverley Chapel was filled with families who came together to remember loved ones they lost throughout the year. “Always in Our Hearts”, is our annual holiday remembrance program dedicated to our families who experienced the loss of a loved one. We invite all families to join us at this special service for a time to honor and cherish the special people no longer with us this holiday season. It is also a wonderful opportunity to connect with others who have experienced loss and who understand that the holidays can be a difficult time.


Chaplain Randy Hill shared some “Hope for the Holidays”, reminding us that even though the holidays can be sad after a loss, there is still always something to celebrate. The names of the loved ones that people came to honor were read and a member of their family came forward to accept a memorial ornament. The program concluded with the singing of holiday songs, lead by Tim Ringgold. Joy to the World was the last song of the evening.


Our goal is to provide our families with a special event where they can find comfort and support and leave filled with compassion and hope. It is an evening to remember those who will be Always in Our Hearts. Before our families left Chaplain Hill read a poem by Wanda Bencke, My First Christmas in Heaven.

I see the countless Christmas trees around the world below

with tiny lights, like Heaven's stars, reflecting on the snow.

The sight is so spectacular, please wipe away the tear,

for I am spending Christmas with God this year.

I hear the many Christmas songs that people hold so dear

but the sounds of music can't compare,

with the Christmas choir up here.

I have no words to tell you, the joy their voices bring,

for it is beyond description, to hear the angels sing.

I know how much you miss me, I see the pain inside your heart

but I am not so far away, we really aren't apart.

So be happy for me, dear ones, you know I hold you dear.

And be glad I'm spending Christmas with God this year.

I send you each a special gift, from my heavenly home above.

I send you each a memory of my undying love.

So have a Merry Christmas and wipe away that tear.

Remember, I am spending Christmas with God this year.


More Than Your Neighborhood Memorial Park

- Friday, August 15, 2014

Memorial parks can offer families a place to celebrate and memorialize loved ones who are no longer with us – a chance to come together and reconnect with their loved one. 

At Fairhaven, families are presented with various opportunities to come together as a community. Neighbors are invited to visit our park to enjoy a picnic or read a book  under the lush trees whenever they choose. When Oliver Halsell created Fairhaven Memorial Park over 102 years ago, he shared his love for trees by planting so many different varieties from all over the world.

We also are happy to open Fairhaven to the public to enjoy the vast expanse of elegant, graceful trees through our programs and annual events. During the summer, we invite guests to bring blankets and snacks to enjoy our movies and concerts in the park with their families. During our holiday events, such as our sunrise Easter services and Memorial Day event, our park is filled with the sounds of music and laughter. Thousands attend to celebrate and enjoy our beautiful grounds.

We also offer “Explorer Tours” where we encourage schools to bring their students to learn more about the famous people buried here and how they helped to shape our community. We love sharing the rich history of Orange County with our guests, especially our community’s youth.

Come visit us on Saturday, August 16 for the last event in our summer entertainment series – a screening of “Stand By Me” under the stars.

For more than a century, Fairhaven has served Orange County families as though they were our own. We are happy to offer our beautiful surroundings to celebrate life and support families.

Click here for more info about Fairhaven’s events.

Always in Our Hearts

- Friday, December 13, 2013

Always in Our Hearts…

For the past two evenings Fairhaven held their annual holiday memorial service, Always in Our Hearts, a remembrance program dedicated to families who have experienced the loss of a loved one. Every year we invite all our families to join us at this special service for a time of reflection to honor and cherish those they love. It is also an opportunity to connect with others who experienced a loss and understand that the holidays can be a difficult time for the bereaved.

“Isn’t it sad?" a friend asked me. 

Yes, the reason people attend is sad because it means they have lost someone they loved. However, the event itself is not sad, but touching and festive. It brings our emotions to the fore when we watch an entire family, a spouse, or a group of friends stand as they hear the name of their loved one read aloud. It  creates a sense of community rather than the loneliness that usually accompanies grief when the attendees watch the photo montage and see the pictures of those who are missed but never forgotten.  I think the bereaved find it encouraging to be reminded that they are not alone, that others have lost loved ones too and are facing the holiday without that special someone.

Randy Hill delivered a wonderful talk on having “Hope for the Holidays”, reminding us that even though the holidays can be sad after a loss, there is always something to celebrate. The names of the loved ones that people came to honor were read and a member of their family came forward to accept a memorial ornament. The program concluded with the singing of holiday songs, lead by guitarist Tim Ringgold. “Joy to the World” was the last song of the evening.

Our goal is to give each visitor a special time and place where they can find comfort and support. And so, my answer to my friend was, "No, it is not a sad event. It is filled with compassion and hope and is an evening to remember those who will be Always in Our Hearts."

Pastor Randy Hill concluded the evening with the poem "My First Christmas in Heaven" by Wanda Bencke.

I see the countless Christmas Trees around the world below
with tiny lights like Heaven's Stars reflecting on the snow.
The sight is so spectacular please wipe away that tear
for I am spending Christ with God this year.

I hear the many Christmas Songs that people hold so dear
but the sound of music can't compare with the Christmas Choir up here.
I have no words to tell you of the joy their voices bring
for it is beyond description to hear the angels sing.

I know how much you miss me.
I see the pain inside your heart, but I am not so far away.
We are really not apart. So, be happy for me loved ones.
You know I hold you dear. Be glad I am spending Christmas
with God this year. I send you a special gift
from my heavenly home above. I send you each a memory of my undying love.

So have a Merry Christmas and wipe away that tear.
Remember, I am spending Christmas with God this year.

~ by Wanda Bencke
© Copyright 1999



Hippity Hoppity, Easter’s on its Way…

- Monday, March 11, 2013

Fairhaven Memorial Park will host its 19th annual Easter Sunrise Service, “Everlasting Grace” at 6 a.m. on Sunday, March 31, 2013 in front of the Historic Mausoleum.

Our featured guest speaker, representing the CBMC, is Dan Campbell, who will deliver a message of “Everlasting Grace”. Also participating will be Reverend Chris Singer from St. John Lutheran Church of Orange who will share the message of Easter and Pastor Rick McGee, who will give the Invocation and Benediction.

Set against the backdrop of our newly renovated Historic Mausoleum within Fairhaven’s beautiful park-like setting, the Sunrise Service will be an hour of celebration. The event features music by The Praise Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Helen Weed and comprised of talented instrumentalists from all over Southern California, The Celebration Choir, made up of members from the Calvary Church Choir of Santa Ana and The Orange County Community Praise Choir of Southern California, under the direction Harden Walker. The service will also feature an unforgettable dramatic production and a White Dove release.

Gates open at 5:30 am and transportation is available from the parking area to the service venue. The Service is from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 am. Refreshments will be served and there will be a special visit from the Easter Bunny.

Come join us on this glorious morning to experience the grace that is Easter!



Fairhaven Celebrates the Holidays

- Friday, December 21, 2012

Fairhaven's Annual Holiday Dinner was held on December 15 at the Orange County Mining Company. Members of Fairhaven's board and management joined the staff for an evening of good food, dancing, and awards put on by the company Christmas committee headed by Vice President Omar Gallarzo who also served as MC for the evening. Fairhaven management took this opportunity to recognize outstanding staff members. Vice President Leo O'Connor led the awards portion of the evening by announcing the ten 2012 Customer Service Pin winners, many of whom earned a pin in previous years: Cynthia Adair (1st pin), Tammy Arevalos (1st pin), Edel Cabrera (4th pin), Staci Collier (2nd pin), Charity Gallardo (4th pin), Jose Hernandez (5th pin), Vanessa Mendez (4th pin), Jay Rodriguez (1st pin), Bea Valdez (7th pin) and Ruth Velez who has won a pin in every year since the company began the Customer Service Initiative (9 pins.) One of the winners, Tammy Arevalos, was awarded the Customer Service Award for 2012.

Next, Vice President Tiffany Gallarzo and Family Service Manager Michael Casey awarded Susan Farrar the Counselor of the Year Award. This award is based on service to families and community involvement. Then, Park Grounds Manager Jay Rodriguez handed out an Oliver statue to Grounds Crew Employee of the Year David Mejia whose brother Luis won last year. And finally, President Marla Noel recognized Decedent Affairs Coordinator Robert Nethington as Fairhaven's Employee of the Year with an Oliver statue. 

Fairhaven truly appreciates every employee and their contribution to the company's success. At the annual holiday luncheon in Waverley Gallery, staff participated in a gift exchange and ate traditional holiday fare. This event is also organized by Fairhaven staff. This year's luncheon committee was headed up by Mortuary Manager Charlie Thorson (in the reindeer horns) and Prep Department Lead Embalmer Staci Collier (behind Charlie in the photo.)

Fairhaven wishes everyone a very happy holiday and a prosperous and healthy new year.


Fairhaven’s Hope for the Holidays Remembrance Programs

- Thursday, November 29, 2012

Fourteen years ago, Fairhaven started Hope for the Holidays, an annual remembrance program to honor the families we serve and to recognize that the holidays are an especially difficult time after the loss of a loved one. Fairhaven’s two locations, Santa Ana and Mission Viejo, will be hosting Hope for the Holidays Remembrance Programs in December. Families are encouraged to submit photos of their loved ones for Fairhaven’s Memory Tree (either by mail or in-person), and each family will receive a beautiful keepsake ornament during the ceremony.

Fairhaven Memorial Park in Santa Ana is hosting remembrance services on December 12 and December 13 at 7pm in Waverley Chapel. The theme is “Always in our Hearts” and the evenings will include Pastor Randy Hill from Hope for Healing Hearts Ministries, music by harpist Toni Destro and a video montage. For more information about the Santa Ana services, please visit our Community Events Calendar.

Fairhaven Memorial Services in Mission Viejo is hosting its remembrance service on December 11 at 7pm in the Chapel. The theme is “Cherished Memories” and the evening will include Pastor Mike Foell from Mission Hills Community Church, music by Ernesto Ale and a video montage. For more information about the Santa Ana services, please visit our Community Events Calendar

Easter Reflections

- Friday, April 06, 2012

Easter is often a time for reflection. With its connection to the Bible and the resurrection, it also has many ties to grief. People remember their lost loved ones at Easter causing grief to raise it's head and swamp our emotions. Those who are religious are reminded that they will see their lost loved ones again some day. Those beliefs comfort them but can also give rise to renewed grief.

Here at Fairhaven, we have a tradition of Easter Sunrise services. This year marks our 18th annual event. (Click HERE for a flyer.)  When I was thinking of what to write about Easter and grief I somehow ended up thinking of all the people I work with who come here at 4 and 5 am on Easter to help put on this special event. These people give from their hearts to the community and the families we serve at Fairhaven in order to present a special service of remembrance. This service is part of what we do to help families deal with their loss and celebrate the lives of their loved ones.

The first Easter after I was hired, I volunteered to help with the event. I was to assist the Easter Bunny since the person who wears the costume can't see and needs to be led. I arrived about 5 am and the park was very dark. However, there was a bustle of people, lights and sound in the administration building. I made my way to the Florist shop where the florist gave me a huge basket of plastic eggs filled with candy for the kids. The florist, Roger Peterson, who is now retired, warned me that even though the Easter Bunny would give away the eggs, the basket would get heavier as the morning wore on so I shouldn't carry it around until I absolutely needed to.

I took the basket and made my way to the historic mausoleum in search of that year's Easter Bunny, Ruth Velez, the President's assistant. When I found her, she wasn't wearing the bunny costume. Ruth was bustling around making sure trays of doughnuts and pastries were set up along with coffee and juice for all the participating guests and staff. I took a muffin and went into the Rose Window Chapel inside the mausoleum. I left the heavy basket with the bunny costume and, munching my muffin, I wandered outside to see what everyone was doing.

Despite the darkness, it was easy to see what the staff was doing. Everything.

Each year that I volunteered, I gained a new appreciation for what the staff at Fairhaven is capable of. I spent several years wearing a goofy headband with floppy bunny ears, struggling to carry the heavy basket of eggs, leading the Easter Bunny around the park and putting eggs in her hand so she could give them to children. I spent a few years dressed as a peasant, mourning at the foot of the cross in the vignette that we put on.

For several of these years, my daughter accompanied me and one year when we were peasants, my daughter had to lead the donkey that Jesus rode because everyone else was afraid of the animal! And my daughter wasn't the only person who participated just because someone in her family worked at Fairhaven. Ruth Velez's husband Jaime was an angel for several years. Vice President Tiffany Gallarzo's daughter was one too. And our IT vendor Steve Duff volunteered to be the Easter Bunny several times. In fact this year, the bunny is Andrew Gallarzo, who was once one of the children that Steve, Ruth, and Delia Teis, who was our Records Clerk for many years, gave candy to when they were dressed as the Easter Bunny.

For Easter, many of the staff have jobs far beyond the scope of their daily activities at Fairhaven. My boss, Jon Searfoss, the Accounting Manager, spent a few Easter mornings dressed in a Roman soldier costume which bared his legs, causing him to walk around to keep from getting too cold. One year, I recall hearing a disembodied voice coming from the roof of the mausoleum. I looked up to see the faint outline of the face of Omar Gallarzo, one of the Vice Presidents, dressed all in black, working behind the scenes to ensure the angels on the roof were all safe. And then there was the time I saw two Family Service Counselors herding a lost chicken back into the petting zoo. There were Service Directors dressed as thieves, carrying Styrofoam crosses in the vignette, staff with flashlights directing traffic, the florist in a tent selling flowers, and everywhere, staff with walkie talkies and radios working hard to make everything come together. Family Service Counselor Lou Carlson has always been there as our MC and Marla Noel, the President herself, has spent time driving a golf cart for local dignitaries and handicapped people.

Everyone who participates has a steadfast determination to make the service the best possible event for our families and the community. It is something we can do to give back to them at a time of emotional reflection and remembrance. Every year that I worked, when I drove home afterward, I felt a huge sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that I had done something to help make Easter special for those who attended the service. And I know, without a doubt, that all my co-workers feel exactly the same.

If you are in the Orange County area, you are welcome to join us for our 18th Annual Easter Sunrise Service at Fairhaven Memorial Park and Mortuary. Gates open at 5:30 am and the service is from 6 am to 7 am.

Happy Easter to all!

Charity Gallardo, Blog CoordinatorCharity has been the Network Administrator for the Fairhaven Family Group for 13 years. When she’s not assisting staff with their computer issues, she is a published author of romance novels, an award winning cover artist and a blogger. 

Is There Ever a Good Time to Die?

- Friday, December 23, 2011

Guest blogger, Heidi Telpner, Hospice RN

I don’t know if there is either a best time or a worst time to die. There’s just a time to die. As Ecclesiastes says regarding life and death, “To everything there is a season. A time to be born; a time to die.”

In Jewish tradition, it’s relatively common for practicing Jews to die just before or just after our most sacred holiday, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. My grandmother died a day after Yom Kippur.

In my hospice practice, I’ve found that many patients die close to an important event, a birthday, a wedding anniversary, at holiday time, especially Thanksgiving and Christmas, less so around Easter and Passover. I have no idea why this is the case. Perhaps it has something to do with natural seasonal rhythms, as the daylight hours grow short and the nights grow longer patients feel it’s a good time to go. I don’t know. It’s a mystery.

If you are a surviving spouse or parent or child, it doesn’t matter if death occurs during the holiday season or in the middle of August, you feel bereft. My mother-in-law passed away two years ago on Thanksgiving Day. Although she had been declining, it was still a shock. In an odd way, it’s become a blessing because for the past two Thanksgivings we’ve remembered the anniversary of her death, but more importantly, we’ve celebrated her life.

The fact that she died on Thanksgiving provides us with a guidepost, a place to stop our day to day activities and remember. We have an opportunity to tell her story when the family is gathered together. Yes, we miss her, but being together with other people who knew her provides comfort and solace. Sharing memories on a happy day, a day set aside to give thanks, makes her loss less painful. Talking about my mother-in-law can’t bring her back, but it imbues the holiday with her spirit.

I think the key is this - Holidays are sacred. This is time set aside, usually for spiritual reasons, to spend with those people we love and care about, the people closest to us. It’s easier to deal with death when we surround ourselves with the living, people who know us, people who care about us, and who understand our loss.

There is no perfect time to die. I’m guessing most of us wish that our world did not include death. However, during the holidays, families usually pull together. Every day means more than an ordinary day. Every day is an extraordinary day. At Christmas time we’re grateful for what we have rather than dwelling upon what we’ve lost. Perhaps this is why so many of my patients seem to pass away during the Christmas season.

When you lose a person you love, it’s hard to find comfort, even in tradition and ritual. Yet immersing yourself in tradition and ritual can provide a guidepost, a resting place. It’s like my mother-in-law’s passing. Her death felt raw at first, and it we felt guilty for celebrating on Thanksgiving. Now she’s in our hearts. Her passing at holiday time makes it easier for all of us to remember her life.

The feeling is bittersweet, but mostly sweet.

Heidi Telpner is author of One Foot in Heaven, available at Barnes and Noble and Amazon.com. Heidi accidentally stumbled into nursing twenty-seven years ago and she never stumbled out. She's been a hospice nurse for the last nine of those twenty-seven years. Her initial training was as a midwife. She now midwifes her patients out the other end of life. Ms. Telpner and her husband live on the West Coast. They have three children, a dog, three cats, two birds and one lucky koi.

About One Foot in Heaven:

People die everyday. While most people in America die in a hospital, many families choose hospice for end of life care. Death, as experienced by hospice nurses, can be beautiful, peaceful, humorous, touching, tragic, disturbing, and even otherworldly. Hospice nurses act as midwives to dying people every day. Death transforms not just the patient and family, but the hospice nurse as well. The stories in this book are presented with the hope that their transformation extends to you, too.

"I would say that "One Foot in Heaven" is more than a well-crafted memoir of a hospice nurse's professional life. It is more accurately, a truthful and artistic account of a women's spiritual awakening to the beauty that can be found in a world that is marred by mortality, by the sorrow of infinite loss.  - Patrick Damon McIntyre"


Holiday Grief by Dr. Debra Holland

- Monday, December 19, 2011


Tis the season to be jolly, to deck the halls, to experience great joy with family and friends. Yet for some people, this holiday season may be a time of sadness, of grieving because of the loss of a loved one due to death or a broken relationship, the loss of a job, the lack of money to travel to be with family, the loss of a home, or the many other reasons people can feel pain during the holidays. Sometimes the grief is new and raw, other times, it’s old and familiar, although no less painful.

The contrast between the outward trappings of the holidays and your inner feelings of grief can be so great that people may not know how to get through the holidays. Many of their friends and family may not know how to support them.

People often avoid others who are grieving because they don’t know what to say or do to help. If you want to support someone who’s grieving, ask how best to comfort him. Does he want company? To talk about his loss to someone who will just listen?

Sometime the worst part of the holidays is the dread leading up to them. The actual day might not be as bad as you feared, and might, instead, be a good day—or at least parts of it are. A loss can make you focus on and feel grateful for who and what you do have. Therefore, it’s important to take some time during a holiday to appreciate the people who care about you.

Follow your intuition about how to celebrate the holidays. Don’t let someone else (no matter how well meaning) tell you what to do. Whether you celebrate or not, go away or stay home, simplify or go all out, should be up to you (although you need to take into consideration the needs of other family members.)

Have a family meeting to discuss traditions, finances, duties, and feelings. Given the limitations of time, energy, and money, figure out what will bring the most peace and satisfaction to all involved. Divvy up what each person will do.

Some family members might want to be part of a crowd because they don’t want to feel alone. Others will want some quiet time on the holiday. Neither choice is right or wrong. The personal preference needs to be respected. So if someone wants to go to her room or take a solitary walk in the midst of the chaos, then respect that. Or just invite friends and family over for a short time.

If you’re grieving, let people know ahead of time how you think you’ll be feeling and how they can best support you. For example, if you’re not up to cooking a big dinner, but would still like to get together, have everyone bring a dish. If you can only tolerate others for an hour instead of the whole day like normal, be clear about the time boundaries. Talk about how you’d like people to support you if you’re emotional. For example, do they give you a hug, pretend not to notice the tears running down your cheeks, or talk to you about shared memories?

Find ways to help others. No matter how much pain you’re in, giving to others can lift your spirits for a while, or at least give you a feeling of purpose. Sometimes seeing the plight of others put your troubles in perspective.

Even if you’re scraping the bottom of the financial barrel, you can still be of service. You help an elderly person put up (and take down) his or her holiday decorations, serve food at a soup kitchen, babysit a neighbor’s children so she can go Christmas shopping, clean out your closet and take your unneeded clothes and shoes to a shelter or other charitable organization. Shovel the snow from the walkway of an elderly or disabled person so he or she can get out. Visit a convalescent home or a veteran’s hospital to visit those who are often forgotten during the holiday.

Avoid excess alcohol. Eat fairly healthy. (It’s almost impossible to eat completely healthy. Besides you’d miss out on some of the fun.) Exercise, even if it’s going for a walk. Get as much sleep as possible. Take a good multi-vitamin/mineral supplement and extra vitamin C and D to keep your immune system strong. Take an Omega three supplement, such as Krill or Salmon oil to keep your brain healthy. Although this is good advice for everyone during the holidays, it’s especially important for those who grieve.

Debra Holland, M.S., Ph.D., is a psychotherapist and corporate crisis/grief counselor. She worked with American Airlines after 9-11, counseled victims of the Metrolink train wreck in 2002, volunteered as a mental health relief worker after Hurricane Katrina, and counseled victims during and after the 2008 California fires.

Dr. Debra is the author of the Essential Guide to Grief and Grieving which is available at Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.

Grief strikes everyone--men and women, young and old, rich and poor--at some point in life. But knowing others have gone through similar emotions does little to lessen mourning when you’re reeling from loss. How do you cope with grief and work through it? How do you help a child or other loved one find the way back from their pain?

The Essential Guide to Grief and Grieving offers help and hope in coming to terms with loss and healing its wounds. Grief counselor Debra Holland explains the relationship between loss and grief, shares how others have worked through their own losses, and offers reassurance that what you’re feeling as you mourn is normal.

Taking Back the Holidays -by Cynthia Adair

- Friday, November 25, 2011

The first year after the loss of a loved one is the most difficult…it is a year of “firsts”…the first Thanksgiving, the first Christmas, the first birthday, without that person.

The first year after the loss of my mother we struggled to maintain family traditions…my sister and I tried our best to recreate the holidays that my mother loved so much…but without her there, they seemed lacking.

The next year was a little better…as we began to combine the best of my mother’s customs with some of our own…this was the year we added Blue cheese and bacon to the Thanksgiving mash potatoes and had Mimosas on Christmas morning.

This past year we were able to find humor in remembering things my mother did…her 4th of July themed tables and the jars of peanuts she put in our stockings. My sister and I can now laugh at each other as we are “becoming our mother”…I show up at her house with dessert and always bring holiday plates and napkins even though I know she has a stockpile of them from years past and she puts labels in the dishes on the Thanksgiving table so we know what to put where…and both of these things are exactly what my mother did.

I know that there are things that we will always do…things just like our mother did…but now the holidays are once again a time to celebrate as well as to remember.

This year as my family gets together…we will be embracing our old traditions and incorporating some new ones…there will be good food, family, and lots of laughter…as those are the things my mother loved best about the holidays!

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