In one of the sadder and more bizarre cases I have handled, each of two families endured the grief and anguish of losing their mother last year, and entrusted the sacred responsibility of funeral services to same establishment. This Memphis area funeral home made an unthinkable mistake: they inadvertently confused the identities two deceased ladies, and buried the wrong one.
It is not something that most people think is even possible. And, if state laws that regulate funeral homes are carefully followed, it should never happen at all.
Some members of the first family to view the deceased woman said to be their mother were quick to notice that she did not look right. Though already emotional and grief-stricken, they became even more upset.
Others of the family were more acquainted with the changes in appearance that can often follow a long illness and the embalming and preparation procedures. They explained that sometimes they just look different. After all, his deceased lady was dressed in the clothes that this family had provided for her funeral. The concerns raised were written off as folks being too emotional.
It never dawned on the family as a whole what was really happening in this already turbulent time.
Eventually, those with concerns were calmed enough to allow the funeral, just moments away, to proceed as planned. The funeral was held, and the burial service ensued. Doubts lingered for some of the family, but the grief for a lost mother eventually overshadowed all the other feelings and concerns at the time.
Imagine their horror when friends told this family to turn on the news because there had been a “mix-up” at their funeral home that very day.
Sure enough, they discovered that they had just had a funeral, given eulogies, said their goodbyes, kissed and buried someone else!
Apparently, the family of the other woman had noticed the differences too, and questioned the funeral home. When the mistake was finally discovered, the lady my clients had a funeral for and buried had to be disinterred.
Also, there was now the need for yet a second gut-wrenching funeral service with the proper body. All the fresh emotional wounds just starting to close hours earlier were reopened.
Additionally, the guilt and embarrassment that some family members felt for not following up on the fact that something did not seem right previously was just piled on as well.
While the funeral home and my clients have now reached a significant monetary settlement, the additional pain of the home’s mistake will always be with them.
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