Garrison Fields

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Chapter 27 - A pauper's funeral

They went down later that day to pay their respects to Albert. They were directed to the hospital mortuary and the assistant asked them to wait a few minutes while they moved Albert’s body to a small candlelit room next to the chapel. He had been laid out in a white cotton gown with a clean sheet covering him and turned down as if the bed had just been made. He was washed and shaved and his hair neatly combed. His complexion remained, as is the case with the recently deceased. He looked peaceful and at any moment he might just open his eyes and smile. They went in and payed their respects, the women as always performed most of the talking, while the boys and the men mainly looked on.

‘Why they really have made him look nice, well the sadness is gone now.’

There were several of the usual uncomfortable references to him having gone to a better place. Most of these were for Ted’s benefit, then each in turn was said goodbye. Luke lifted Ted and told him to stroke his father’s hair and say goodbye. The ladies finishing by kissing him goodbye on his temple. They left the small room and there was not a face on which tears had not affected it. Stopping at the office on the way out, Jane explained to the clerk the difficult financial situation she was in.

‘That is not a problem Mrs Burns the Borough has an arrangement at the local cemetery where souls on hard times are catered for.’

‘You mean a paupers grave?’

‘That is what they are sometimes referred to, I can only say to you that your husband will have his own coffin and be buried on consecrated ground. A vicar will commit him with dignity.’

‘May we be present?’

‘Yes, you can, it’s not encouraged though... There isn’t a service in the chapel it’s a graveside committal and sometime relatives find it distressing. There may be several souls committed at the same time.’ There was nothing they could do, there was not the money left for a funeral, they had agreed, this was the best that was available to them.

‘The committals take place on Monday morning at 9 a.m. and Thursday at the same time. If I can get you to come into the office for a moment, I have a number of forms for you to sign. One is for the return of his belongings and I shall make out the necessary paperwork for tomorrows internment.’

All was completed they would go to the municipal cemetery for 9 a.m. the following morning.

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