Pauper funeral

Charles 1 Comment


From the Toronto Globe and Mail:

I was standing in the parlour of a Toronto funeral home, waiting for the friends of the homeless man we were about to bury. The funeral director was supposed to be retired, but he had stayed on to see the business through the transition to a new owner. Together, we looked through the stately front window toward the strip club across the street offering “the finest in adult entertainment.”

In Toronto, the city pays funeral costs for those without assets. But the stipend for clergy is so paltry that the funeral director had trouble finding a minister who would agree to perform the service.

I had said yes, but on one condition: I wanted to meet the family of the deceased. I was not willing to perform a cold and impersonal service for a man I knew nothing about.

The only contacts he had were other homeless men and women. I arranged to meet some of them at a coffee shop to discuss their friend. Our conversation was rich and heartfelt, and I was honoured to be a part of it. Together, we planned an informal, simple, yet personal service to honour the deceased.

Just as I prepared to begin the service, a woman stood up and said that a medicine man had called. He was coming, but was stuck in traffic. Could I wait?

I could.

Twenty-five minutes later, a first nations healer walked into the room. He performed a sacred smudging ceremony to open the service. The next 30 minutes included readings from Leonard Cohen and Ecclesiastes, several eulogies, a toast to a friend and the rosary.

Then the funeral director stood up and said he would play the CD of Sanctus and Benedictus conducted by Eugene Stewart and the St. Matthew’s Choir, recorded live at the funeral of President John F. Kennedy. I still remember his exact words as he pushed the CD into the slot: “It is my firm belief that every person deserves such a sending off.”

Whole article here


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