This afternoon I came across an interesting radio program concerning the plight of people who die completely alone. What happens to those people who die without relatives, friends, or anyone who cares about them?
Every year up to twenty people die completely alone in Amsterdam. They have no one to prepare their funeral or mourn them. Some die alone in their home, with nothing but their identity. These forgotten dead have, for some reason or other, lost all social contacts. Some are elderly, some abandoned infants, and some illegal immigrants. Some are poor and some have plenty of money. These forgotten people come from all levels of society. However, they do share one common characteristic: they died lonely and forgotten.
For 20 years, retired civil servant Ger Frits has made sure that these lonely and forgotten citizens have a dignified funeral. He visits their homes if they have one, and selects the music to be played at their publicly funded funeral. He puts flowers on the coffin and accompanies each person to their final resting place. A few years ago, Amsterdam poet Frank Starik decided that these people also deserved to be eulogized. He contacted the Amsterdam city services and asked if he could take part in these funerals and write poems for the forgotten dead.
It seems terribly sad that people should be totally forgotten by society. As Herr Frits says, "every one of these people had a mother, lived a life . . . They deserve some level of respect when they die."