What Happened Next?
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Following the receipt of the March 24th letter from Martin Turner and the shock that it contained, my wife and I sat back over the next few weeks, took stock of the situation and discussed what should happen to Brendan's remains. Throughout the whole events of Brendan's birth and the subsequent saga with his post mortem and retention of his body parts, because that is what they are, not blocks and slides, a description that demeans these body parts, my wife was extremely strong, far stronger than myself. It was I at the time of Brendan's birth that ended up for six weeks on Valium because I suppressed my feelings so that at that time I could give my family as much support during our bereavement and continued to suppress them for the next 28 years. It is the reason why I took it so hard when we discovered that there were remains of my son Brendan. It brought back all the memories and emotions from 28 years ago and to a far greater degree than they were originally. I have great difficulty now since the letter that confirmed that body parts had been retained in talking to friends, relatives or the press and even to the Retained Organs Commission when they came to Cardiff in March 2003. Each and every time I try to talk about this matter sensibly, I usually end up in bags of tears and am unable to put my views over so that they are understood properly, not a problem I had about talking about Brendan for the first 28 years but only since the article in the South Wales Argus on December 8, 1999 and especially the letter that confirmed that parts of him had been retained.
We made a decision that we would have Brendan's remains buried in the same grave as the rest of his body, even though by this this time my wife's Auntie had died and had been buried in the same grave above Brendan. She had attended the original burial for Brendan. As it was the beginning of May I wrote to Martin Turner and requested that a burial of Brendan's remains take place on June 6, 2002 at 10.30am, exactly 28 years to the date and time that we originally had his first funeral.
The day arrived and did not go according to plan. The family had arranged to meet the undertakers outside the office at the cemetery. Eventually all the expected mourners had arrived and we waited for the funeral directors. Not knowing what to expect, we were caught unawares when a stretched limo came through the cemetery gates and my wife said to me "that's not ours" Well for once, she was wrong, it was.
The cemetery superintendent came out of the office and when he saw the vehicle and it's length, he said that would not get to the grave as it was too long. He got into his car and the stretched limo/hearse followed by the rest of us went to the nearest point that they could get the limo/hearse too.
When we had all stopped and exited our vehicles and by this time it was raining heavily, they got Brendan's remains which were in a small casket out of the vehicle along with a wreath from our family. I took hold of Brendan's casket which fitted in the middle of our family wreath. This was the first time I had held Brendan or at least any part of him and I again felt very emotional. I led the way to the grave which was about 100 yards away with one of the undertakers holding an umbrella above my head and the rest of my family and friends and a representative of Gwent Healthcare NHS Trust, Mr Perry Atwell following on behind. I had seen Mr Atwell when we had got out of our vehicles near the grave and I went too him and said "Mr Atwell, if you are representing Gwent Healthcare then you are not welcome, but if you are representing yourself, then you are and thank you" Mr Atwell was the person that had liaised with us too arrange the funeral on behalf of Gwent Healthcare.
The family, mourners, undertakers and grave diggers all sombre, arranged themselves around the grave looking down at a small hole that had been dug into the ground to take the casket with Brendan's remains in and then someone said,
"Where's the priest?"
"Where's the priest?!!", nobody had noticed that the priest was not there to perform the burial service. We were all milling around together when we parked our vehicles near to the grave and even when we formed into a procession, nobody had noticed there was "no priest".
Now I do not think that the writers of 'Monty Python' could have dreamed up this story but it is true and as that other Welshman, Max Boyce would say "I know, because I was there" but don't forget it was arranged by Gwent Healthcare NHS Trust whose Chief Executive is Martin Turner.
Brendan's grave after his second funeral
I was staggered and it brings to mind another cliché off tv "I didn't believe it" or similar and then there were frantic efforts by the undertakers, the superintendent and grave diggers to locate where the priest was. I thought I must be in a dream, none of this can be real with all that we had gone through up till now. We all returned to our vehicles as it was raining heavily and for some reason I put Brendan's remains back in the Limo, why I don't know because I felt at one with him, with his remains in my hands. One of the grave diggers had gone in his vehicle with one of the undertakers back to the main office to try and locate the priest, hoping that the priest carried a mobile phone.
Sometime later for reasons that were never explained to me, the priest turned up following the grave diggers vehicle and I think that he had been given the wrong information as to where the burial was to be held. Wrong cemetery?, wrong church?, wrong part of the cemetery? as it is a large cemetery, who knows because I was not told.
Eventually we all made our way in the same procession as we had done earlier, except this time a priest was leading us as we arrived again at the graveside. The priest, Father Mike McCarthy from St Michaels church started the service. I was intrigued to see how he would handle a burial service for parts of a body rather than a complete body. I must say that listening to his words I was surprised when I heard his sermon and thought what a good job he is doing in this very difficult situation. The result of this is that we did not bury Brendan at the same time as we did 28 years earlier, it was at least 30mins later but it is nice to think that we did and we were at his graveside at the time.
Note... I subsequently asked Fr.Mike McCarthy if he had kept a record of his words at Brendan's graveside but unfortunately he had not. I would have very much liked to have added them to this website.