NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Every week, there’s a different kind of funeral that happens in Nashville. Even though they’re in a cemetery, there’s usually no family, no stories shared, and no flowers.

That’s because these funerals are for people whose families haven’t claim their bodies.

It’s often been said that a person’s story comes alive after they’re gone.

“It’s about our life; it’s about the dash in the middle, and it doesn’t matter what that dash is, whether it was a minute of life or 99 years of life, it’s all-important,” said Keisha Gardner, the owner of the Hills of Calvary Cemetery.

For decades, Gardner has owned Hills of Calvary Cemetery, and while many buried there have had a ceremony, family, and memories shared in front of a headstone, there are a select few that hold a special place in her heart.

“Bordeaux cemetery filled up back in 2006, and we got a letter asking for help, that Metro was needing help, and at the time me and my husband we were running it…running the cemetery [and] decided to help Metro,” said Gardner.

Year after year after year, the headstones represent a unique population.

“It’s their first and last name and their year-to-year dates, and that’s all we need when you think about it,” described Gardner. “We have some people who are abandoned by family members; we have some people who are homeless; we have some families who just don’t have the money. Especially families out of state who didn’t know their loved one passed away, I get a lot of those phone calls who didn’t know that mom or dad or sister or brother passes away here in Nashville.”

On Tuesday, mounds of dirt sat as the cemetery prepared for more services this week, giving people a final resting place.

“There are more and more people in need of this, and it doesn’t look like it is slowing down,” Gardner said.

The services are provided through a burial program with Metro Social Services. The department steps in when someone passes away, with no one to claim their body, tell their story, or celebrate their life. The program also is for those who do not exceed the monthly allowable income as stated in the Health and Human Services (HHS) most current Poverty Income Guidelines.

“Everyone deserves a decent burial. Sometimes we have burials and there are no family members, but we still go through the same routine,” said Richard Lewis Sr., president of Lewis and Wright Funeral Services.

So far this year, Metro Social Services has tracked nearly 150 people who have been provided burials through their program, but that doesn’t include the number of people who have requested services and did not meet the qualifications.

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Our loved one’s last moment on earth should not be one where they are alone. We stand at their gravesite as they are interred. Further, their family shouldn’t have to bear the pain of grief and funeral costs. That’s where we come in, holding their hand through one of the most difficult times they will experience. This is a special calling we are honored to answer.

The pain experienced in these earth-shattering moments are made easier to navigate for families, thanks to our team handling all the arrangements and funeral homes who partner with us.

Metro Social Services


  • – Was a resident of Davidson County or who died in Davidson County without means to provide for burial
  • – Did not exceed the monthly allowable income as stated in the Health and Human Services (HHS) most current Poverty Income Guidelines – 100% Poverty Level
  • – Did not leave sufficient assets, or a life insurance policy sufficient to cover the cost of burial expenses
  • – Did not die in a state or federal institution or in state or federal custody

A resident is defined as someone who is currently living in Davidson County or someone who dies in Nashville or Davidson County.