The utility company cannot release specifics about any customer's account, but they are concerned about all customers' health and well being and service suspension always is a last resort, according to ComEd spokesman Bennie Currie Currie.

When customers don’t pay, those costs are shared by all customers, according to Currie, who said ComEd offers a number of assistance programs to those who have difficulty paying their bills.

Among the relatives who gathered outside the home Monday to get some answers was Julia Bailey, who said she has been waiting since November for her father's ashes. "I don't even know if he's been cremated. He may be in here."

Bailey said she was initially told a doctor hadn't signed off on the death certificate. When she got that taken care of, Bailey said she was told they were waiting for permission from the crematorium. "I call every week, twice a week sometimes." Last week, she said she threatened to get a lawyer.

Leona Howard, who lives in Jacksonville, N.C., said her uncle's funeral was supposed to be Tuesday morning. "We can't talk to anyone," she said. "My concern is, will the funeral be tomorrow morning?"

She said she was in the funeral home Saturday and the heat and lights were on. She didn't have any cause for concern then, but is shocked now. "We don't know what the status is."

Members of the Howard family were finally allowed inside the funeral home for 30 to 45 minutes in the afternoon. Family members appeared upset as they left, but one relative said, "Everything's OK."

Chicago Tribune reporters Rosemary Sobol, Carlos Sadovi and Jeremy Gorner contributed.

Twitter: @chicagobreaking