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Funeral rush


Taking no chances, the family of Natalie Muirhead rushed to stage her funeral and burial yesterday at the Dovecot Memorial Park and Crematorium in St Catherine, ahead of Government’s two-week ban on funerals, which takes effect today.

According to her sister, Waveney Muirhead, Natalie died suddenly on February 25. She had diabetes and later experienced kidney failure and plans were being made for her funeral closer to the end of the month.

But with news that the Government has shut down burials due to a spike in COVID-19 cases, she had to fast-track plans and spend more than she bargained for in order to lay Natalie to rest.

She told the Observer that the family was told that it would take at least a three days to complete her sister’s autopsy and that process would be free, but they opted to pay to get it done earlier.

“We were waiting on the documents from KPH [Kingston Public Hospital]. They gave us three days and that would have thrown everything off. We had to do an independent autopsy and that cost $40, 000. If we had waited for the documents from KPH, I wouldn’t have to pay that money.

“Because of all that’s happening, we weren’t able to take her into any church, so we had to pay an additional $11, 000 to use the chapel at Dovecot,” she shared, adding that Natalie was well loved and key family members dropped everything to make sure they were at the rushed funeral.

“She was a kind person. She lived in east Kingston and Bellevue patients would stop by the house and she would give them food. They even knew she had plates to go. I used to tell her that she attracts mad people,” said Muirhead.

In a similar position was the family of 24-year-old Jermaine “Boy Boy” Moatt.

He was on his home from an automated teller machine on Christmas Day, when he was shot by gunmen in Rose Town, south St Andrew. The following day, on Boxing Day, a close family friend of Moatt, Jason Plumber of a Tewari Crescent address in Kingston, was also shot dead. Plumber was laid to rest in rural Jamaica on Saturday while Moatt was buried yesterday at Dovecot.

Dennis Mundel, who identified himself as a brother of Plumber and the father of Moatt, said the family had to rush funeral plans in order to not be trapped by the shutdown.

According to Mundel, relatives overseas had to cancel travel plans due to the fast pace at which funeral preparations were made.

“Mi son dead Christmas Day and mi bredda dead Boxing Day. Germaine Moatt was my son, not my birth son, but me grow him. From you nuh dead by corona, I don’t think there should be no problem fi you can bury your loved one. All you need fi do is wear the mask and do the necessary protection, but you supposed to can bury your loved one how you want to bury your loved one.

“My bredda never fi bury until the 19th or the 20th of this month, but we had to bury him Saturday because a di 8th dem seh there will be no burials till such time. So we did affi hurry up the burials. We did waaa allow some family fi come een from overseas like aunties and cousins but we had to do it today because after today, there is no funeral, so had to bury one yesterday and one today.

“We didn’t want to keep them later than that because it would cost us at the morgue to keep them over the time. We did a try avoid all a dat. It was a likkle inconvenient, because who did fi come never get fi come,” said Mundel.

Sirley Stewart, pastor of the Corporate Area-based Whitfield Town Seventh-day Adventist Church, who presided over Moatt’s funeral, told the Observer that it was a short notice when he recived the request to officiate.

“It was only Saturday that a friend of mine asked me if I could do this funeral. There is nothing wrong with the regulations because the virus is moving fast and a lot of people are catching it, so we really need to learn to adhere to the protocols. When I see people not wearing masks and not observing social distancing, it hurts me,” said Stewart..

Despite various stakeholders in the industry protesting the two-week ban, arguing that bodies will pile up at morgues and families would be inconvenienced, Minister of Local Government Desmond McKenzie last week told the Standing Finance Committee of Parliament that he wouldn’t be bowing to pressure.

He said the ban on funerals had to be imposed because many members of the public were demonstrating scant regard for COVID-19 safety protocols.

Pointing to the recent shut down of a repast at a funeral home in downtown, McKenzie said that sent the wrong signal.

“What it is telling you is that there is a kind of scant disregard for the process, and you cannot be encouraging actions like those,” said McKenzie.

He noted that operators of funeral parlours have put some suggestions on the table for the Government to consider and those will be taken to the Cabinet.

“While we appreciate that, if a Government bows to that kind of pressure the Government is going to lose its legitimacy and the Government cannot afford [that] under these circumstances, so we will look at what has been put on the table and take it under consideration,” said McKenzie.

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