Show the dead more respect

Police officers and undertakers taking away a body.
Police officers and undertakers taking away a body.PHOTO: ST FILE

In February, my mother passed away and the events that followed her death show that a high level of disrespect and lack of planning go into preparing a body for a funeral.

According to Hindu traditions, a body must be cleaned and showered prior to the cremation.

So, the funeral undertaker took her body to Kallang Bahru, where a few funeral companies are located.

An hour later, we went there and were shocked to see the state of the place.

My mother's body was kept in a unit on a metal tray, which was also a bathing bay, and it was uncovered.

Across her were the bodies of two other women. Only their faces were covered, with a flimsy plastic bag.

We were told that the place receives a lot of bodies to be embalmed, and that it was the only place available to embalm the body and give it a shower.

We were surprised by this and were not prepared to see our mum's body in such a place or condition.

We were fortunate enough to notice a funeral parlour two doors down, which informed us that it was available later that afternoon, and took steps to move her body there.

However, we were told that we had to take her body back to the first place when we needed to bathe it, as the funeral parlour had no shower facilities available.

Also, Kallang Bahru is an industrial area with many small factories.

We noticed that there were many stray dogs in the area and, at night, as the doors of the unit are left ajar, some of the dogs enter the premises and sleep underneath the trays holding the bodies.

I asked the caretaker and he said that the dogs do not cause any harm and just come in to sleep.

It is very disturbing that dogs are allowed to roam freely in an area with many dead bodies.

I am not asking for the dogs to be culled, but just for some respect to be shown to the dead who are kept there overnight.

I am appealing to the Government to provide a location where bodies are properly respected and families can clean and shower their loved ones in a respectful manner before they embark on their final journey.

It would disturb anyone to see the bodies of their loved ones treated this way, especially at a time when they are struggling to cope with the death itself.

Sunil Kumar

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 20, 2019, with the headline 'Show the dead more respect'. Print Edition | Subscribe