Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Lonely Funeral

I guess this does not happen in small communities, but it does happen every so often in big cities: someone has died and no one shows up to take care of the funeral. Then it is up to the authorities to handle the affairs. The municipality of Amsterdam has some 10-20 of such cases each year. On The State We're In, a podcast by the RNW (Radio Netherlands Worldwide) (feed), there was a documentary by Michele Ernsting about a civil servant and a poet who have taken it upon themselves to do the honors for the municipality in a more special and dignified manner. (Broadcast as part of Last Respects)

I was alerted to this documentary by a podcast from the RTE (the Irish national broadcaster). RTE's Doc on One has a rubric, The Curious Ear, which brings interesting sound bytes such as The Lonely Funeral. (feed)

Ernsting speaks with the civil servant Ger Frits and the city poet Frank Starik. We learn how Frits took up elaborating the municipal funerals. Starik learned about this effort and managed to convince Frits to let him join in. Since they started the anonymous funerals by the city of Amsterdam are attended by them, accompanied by music and ritual, part of which is the reciting of a poem that was specifically written for this lonely case.

Last Respects can no longer be had in the feed of The State We're In, but it can be reached through the website. The Lonely Funeral is available there for download and so I have used Huffduffer to make this documentary a podcast. Check out this feed: Huffduffer funeral.

Reports about Lonely funerals in Amsterdam and other Dutch cities can be read on the blog Eenzame Uitvaart.
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