Thursday, November 8, 2007

Premature funeral

It must have been a terrible day for Gina Partington. The 58-year old mother from Urmston, Greater Manchester, reported her 37-year old son, Thomas Dennison, missing last month. Three days later she received word that a body had been found in Rusholme, Manchester. Partington went and formally identified the body as that of her missing son. After an inquest the body was cremated on October 30.

What Partington didn't know was that police had located her son, Thomas, in Nottingham four days before the cremation. He was very much alive. The body Partington had identified as that of her son was not the body of her son after all.

This is a strange story that you can read about here. The police department said in a statement: "This set of circumstances is clearly distressing and urgent inquiries are ongoing to establish how this happened."

For Gina Partington I cannot imagine the emotional rollercoaster ride she took from having a missing son to news of a body to identifying a body to a cremation to news that her dead, cremated son is alive after all. The last bit of that ride is not the sort of news a grieving parent typically hears: "You know the son you held a memorial service for the other day? Well, he's not dead."

Normally when parents attend the funeral of their child the funeral is considered premature not because that child turns out not to be dead but because the child is in fact dead. Usually the grief of losing a child is not short circuited by the news that the child is still alive. As a rule the agony of typical premature funerals goes on for a very long time.

I do not speak from personal experience. But I live near Ocean Isle Beach, NC where seven college students died in a house fire two days before Gina Partington thought her son's body was cremated. I am a graduate of Virgina Tech where, on April 16 of this year, 32 students and staff were shot dead. I think of the parents and the other loved ones . . . I think of other friends who have lost children . . .

I think of them and I say a prayer for these who have attended premature funerals.

1 comment:

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