Fri | Sep 21, 2018

Why such rigmarole for burials in Jamaica?

Published:Saturday | January 30, 2016 | 12:00 AM


I recently received a call from a stranger who called me to let me know my father had passed away. For more than 30 years, the only thing I knew of my father was his name. We finally met, and we established a great relationship. We laughed and talked together, and we had plans for the future. He worked his entire life, retired, gets a pension, and I send him money every two weeks.

Recently, I received a telephone call from a stranger informing me he had passed away. My father settled in St Thomas, where he lived alone, and passed away at home unexpectedly. The St Thomas police were on the scene, but none of them took his meagre possessions or the time to look through his cell phone to call the family.

I started making lots of phone calls trying to locate his body. He was at a morgue in St Thomas, but his body was stored in an unknown Kingston location. He had other children and family living in Jamaica, but because I was living in the United States, none of them opted to help!




I have decided to bring his body back home to an area where most of the families are located. I do not know anyone in St Thomas for me to organise his burial there.

His body spent eight days at a particular mortuary in Kingston and I agreed to an autopsy for J$35,000. However, they made it difficult for me, costing lots of time and money in phone calls. I received a bill from a morgue for J$190,000, so I requested an invoice, wanting to know what services they performed in 8 days but did not receive one. I contacted the Golden Grove Police Station in St Thomas, who said, "OK, ma'am, we are going to give them a call." After I called back, I was told, "Ma'am, if you don't pay the money and allow the body to stay there longer, you will just incur additional fees and you will have to pay."




I negotiated for US$1,100, paid to the mortuary US$1,200, considering it would be there an additional day for pickup by the mortuary of my choice closer to all the family. But after receiving the funds, the mortuary tried to get even more money. Keep in mind that I had another mortuary to pay for coffin, storage and all the other stuff that goes with a funeral.

I am not complaining of having to pay for his burial. However, I find it a disgrace that I still have not identified his body or know who I am burying. It could be anybody.

Is that the way how business is conducted in Jamaica? Business practices need to be further evaluated, so that this ordeal is not experienced by another family. Disgraceful!