(Jamaica Observer) After a relatively short but debilitating battle with stage 3 breast cancer, all the relatives of 48-year-old Sandra Rhone wanted was to ensure that her request to be laid to rest beside her mother at Melrose Cemetery, in Manchester, was granted.
That plan, however, went awry when the grieving relatives discovered that the body delivered to them for burial on Sunday was that of another woman named Sandra, and that Rhone was mistakenly cremated at Calvery Funeral Services and Supplies on North Street in Kingston.
“We are confused, we don’t know what to do,” one of her sisters, Joy Plummer, told the Jamaica Observer at the family home in Barnstable, Manchester, yesterday.
Plummer said that even though the funeral home offered to give them the cremated remains, the family is not prepared to take it.
She argued that if they were capable of giving them the wrong body they could not be certain that they would not be given the wrong ashes.
Plummer said that some friends and family, including her, had doubts about the appearance of the body in the open casket prior to the start of the thanksgiving service at Maranatha Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Manchester.
She said, however, that no one wanted to create a scene at the service and the programme proceeded as planned, after which they made their way to Melrose Cemetery.
She said Rhone’s children, who travelled from Kingston, made it in time for the burial and insisted that they wanted to see their mother one last time. When they saw the body they confirmed that it was not her, even though she was wearing the wig and dress given to the funeral home for Rhone to be buried in.
Plummer said the driver of the hearse speculated that maybe the powder on her face had changed her features, but the family felt otherwise.
Plummer and her sister Audrian told the Observer that even with the powder and the rounds of chemotherapy Rhone underwent during her treatment it was not possible that her appearance would have changed to the degree as observed on the body that was given to them.
They said that when Rhone died she was totally bald because of the chemotherapy and the woman in the casket had hair when the wig was removed. Also, when they tried to look for a tattoo that was on one of Rhone’s feet it appeared that the woman it the casket had no feet.
She said that the pastor advised them to “mek the Lord take it in hand”, and that prevented what might have been possible chaos at the graveside.
Still wanting an official word on the matter, the family and others attending the funeral went to an office in Williamsfield, Manchester, operated by the funeral home, where the driver of the hearse was hoping to get someone who could better assist the family.
Joy Plummer said that eventually, on Sunday night, the body was taken back to the North Street location where they received the news that their sister had been cremated.
The Observer was told that one of Rhone’s daughters had to seek medical attention at Kingston Public Hospital after hearing the news, and although she was not admitted is still not doing well.
The family is also trying to cope with a range of emotions, primarily confusion, since Sunday.
“All now mi caan believe it. Mi hear bout dem yah something, but a now mi prove it. It hurt; right yah now mi heart a hot mi,” said Joy Plummer, who revealed that the family used the same funeral home four years ago when their mother passed.
Plummer said the family paid $370,000 for the funeral, plus other costs for videography, buses, rental of chairs, and provisions for the repast.
The deceased, who lived in Bull Bay for many years, had a store in downtown in Kingston.
The Observer called the funeral home twice to get a response. On one of two numbers, having heard the allegations, a male who responded wanted to find out which family member was making the claims. The call was then disconnected and the person could not be reached afterwards. When we called the other number, a woman who answered said that she was unable to comment.
Calvin Lyn, president of the Jamaica Association of Certified Embalmers and Funeral Directors, told the Observer that the Government is slow in implementing regulations in the funeral service industry.
He also said that to get some recourse the family may have to retain an attorney.