From Ismail Veli….
All humans have experienced the loss of a loved one in their lives. Paying our last respects is the most important last tribute to our loved ones. Parents/grandparents, and for many who have sadly lost their children or life partners, the tragedy can be overwhelming. Our emotions often take over our composure. This is where experienced funeral directors take over our burden. Their profession may be a business like many others, however, their compassion and patience often calms us down during the immense preparation of sending off our loved ones with dignity. The final burial place is often picked for its location to our homes so as to make it possible to visit and pay our respects for years after. Our conscience tells us that our loved ones need a nice resting place, free of legal problems, and above all free of corrupt or unethical cemetery owners.
My family lost our father on 6th August 2020, 6 days short of his 91st birthday. His early life in Cyprus was one of extreme hardship and a life saving operation actually changed his future for the better because the UK provided medical facilities which were non-existent in Cyprus during the 1950s, so the UK became the country that saved his life and changed all our lives. He was made to work when 5-6 years old by his father in the mid 1930s, and sadly was never allowed to go to school. He married in 1951 and by 1956 he had 3 children. Our family moved to the UK in 1962. and have lived in the UK since then.
Due to heart and kidney failure, we lost father after a 3 week stay in North Middlesex hospital. Sadly only one visit for an hour was allowed for his family before his passing due to the COVID-19 restrictions. The family then began the emotional last duty of a decent burial and funeral arrangements, that’s the least we could do for a father who only had one aim in life, that was to provide support and love to all his children, and grandchildren, not to mention many great grandchildren.
Due to its close proximity to home, our mother’s choice was Tottenham Cemetery, in Nightingale Road, Edmonton, the family was apprehensive as we had heard ”bad things” and did not think the cemetery was well maintained. Our mother’s wishes were however of paramount importance. The owners gave us a price of £8.000 (pounds sterling), as our mother wanted to eventually be buried with her husband the owners said that they needed to dig deeper, up to five and a half feet, which I found surprising as the standard depth of a burial was 6 feet. The funeral was scheduled for the 19th of August. On 10th August I rang the cemetery owners and requested a meeting with a view to acquiring the plot ownership documentation and their bank details for the transfer of the fees, the response was ”No problem I will call you and we could meet at the office”. Not hearing by the 12th August I called again, no response, I called again on the 13th still no response. By Saturday the 15th I was getting very stressed. With only 4 days to the funeral, nothing had been done. I decided to call again, this time the Tottenham cemetery owner responded. I again repeated that we needed to meet with a view to doing a legal transaction of deeds and money. His next response was shocking. ”Ismail I can’t give you a deed but I will give you a receipt which is proof enough” I expressed my concern, but his reply this time shocked me more, ”I’ve sold 50 burial plots this year without issuing deeds as I’m busy mapping out the cemetery, I can’t do you a favour when others accept a receipt which is proof enough”. I cut it short by telling him I will call him back.
The immense stress of being in limbo suddenly dawned on me. I called a friend to share my grief and fortunately, she said she would call a Mr Erkin Guney who organised funerals from The Masjid Ramadan Mosque at Shacklewell Lane, Dalston, London. To my relief, Mr. Guney rang me within 15 minutes and asked if I wanted him to take me to view a few cemeteries in North London. He did this on the same day, by the evening Mr Guney and his wife Melanie were hard at work trying to organise fathers funeral for the 19th August. Melanie got into 5th gear and with sheer professionalism but above all compassion arranged everything by the 17th. They took over the burden of the burial plot and funeral arrangements which to our surprise was £4.500 for a plot at Lavender Hill, owned by Enfield Council. With all the legal requirements and protection of the law. £8.000 FOR A BURIAL WITH NO LEGAL PROOF, £4,500 WITH LEGAL DOCUMENTS. SAYS IT ALL. On the night of the 17th, I saw a letter by the local MP, shared by Meral Ece, a Turkish Cypriot in the House of Lords, which clearly stated that Tottenham Cemetery still carries out funerals though it is full. In short, we came back from the brink. the only conclusion is that new funerals are carried out on plots that have been sold or over existing plots. Hence the refusal to give an official deed.
Sadly many people going through the emotions and grief of a family funeral completely forget the legal documentation. My experience of having arranged both my in-laws previously helped give me some idea of the procedure. The truth is that without the deeds to a burial plot no one can prove ownership therefore a private cemetery owner can actually bury in the same plot well before the 50-year lease often required by law. Another sad aspect is that many actually accept the initial receipt and within a year or two lose it, The consequences are that they can never prove ownership, and the stress this can have on their conscience is simply mind boggling.
The UK government needs to step in and force unscrupulous cemetery owners to work according to the basic legal requirements. If such people have no respect for our dead, or compassion for living relatives they have no business being in a profession that requires compassion at a basic minimum. After all, even the purchase of a TV comes with a legal guarantee. Buying a land plot for a resting place is way and above one of the most important events in our lives. Our families deserve the best we can afford to give as a last thank you for the life, protection and love they give us. AMEN TO THAT.