Helping Hands for Those Who Have No One Else
A gloomy, grey sky looms overhead in marked contrast with the vast expanse of lush, green grass and trees, while fresh flowers on nearby graves offer vibrant evidence of recent visits by loved ones. Like many hundreds before it, a burial ceremony is taking place in a quiet corner of this cemetery. But there’s something different – strikingly different – about this one.
There’s no grieving widow, no loved ones consoling each other, no procession of cars winding through the serene, park-like setting...just three people. Three.
It’s a non-denominational celebrant, Nathan Romagnoli, eco Founder and Funeral Director and his assistant. None of them knew the deceased in life, but they find themselves here performing what is perhaps the first act of kindness he has received in many years. The Celebrant recites brief spoken word and regard for the deceased, and Nathan places a single flower, provided by eco, on the casket before it’s lowered into the ground. A few photos are taken of the burial by Nathan, for record keeping and as the only proof that they were laid to rest.
On this day, Nathan had the good fortune of finding a couple of kind-hearted cemetery workers who were willing to lend a hand in carrying the simple blue casket from the back of the eco transfer van to the mechanism that will lower it into the grave. Most days like these, though, Nathan struggles to wrestle the casket onto a carriage of sorts with his assitant and wheel it to the gravesite. In cases where a celebrant isn’t warranted, Nathan takes it upon himself to offer a few brief words before burial takes place, always calling them by their full and proper name.
It’s lonely, difficult work – but it’s important work.
How can a life end like this?
When citizens living on the edge of society – or those who otherwise have no family or friends – pass away, there’s often nobody to oversee their journey to a final resting place. In other instances, families make the agonizing decision to leave a loved one’s body unclaimed, because they believe they are unable to handle the cost of a funeral (often because they are unaware of available financial assistance programs).
For the most part, Ontario’s Social Services agencies will refer these cases to a local funeral service provider, where arrangements are made for a simple burial without any type of formal ceremony.
It’s of utmost personal importance to Nathan to ensure that a burial is not treated as a transaction, but instead as a human being’s final moments present on earth. But he needs help.
eco is currently enlisting the help of volunteer pallbearers – not only to assist in the practical aspect of carrying the casket, but also to ensure the deceased has someone to acknowledge and honour a life lived during their burial.
We’re seeking volunteers from all walks of life: from teens wishing to dedicate their high school volunteer hours to a truly selfless cause, to retirees looking to give back to the community, or military veterans who wish to ensure the dignity of a fellow Canadian and stand for the unclaimed.
For more information, or to volunteer as an eco Pallbearer, please click here or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“These were people who where born, lived, had stories, affected people, maybe had their own families and who deserve to be released back to whoever brought them to us in a careful and respectful manner.”
— Nathan Romagnoli, eco Founder & Funeral Director