Every year, countless numbers of people pass away alone, without family or friends to give them a proper funeral. In many places, the government and other organizations take care of the unfortunate and not-so-pleasant stuff like disposing of the person’s stuff, figuring out what to do with the body, etc. We won’t go into details, but let’s just say that they get done the stuff that has to get done — but in a bureaucratic way.
But just because someone dies alone doesn’t mean that he or she should be buried unceremoniously. In Amsterdam, at least, they aren’t.
About twenty times a year, someone in Amsterdam dies without next of kin or somebody to claim the deceased’s body. Which means that these people are, typically, buried without anyone noticing. For roughly 25 years, a man named Ger Frits has made sure that doesn’t happen. As reported by Radio Netherlands Worldwide in 2010, with the blessing and assistance of Amsterdam’s city services, Frits became a one-man funeral gathering. After the city agency notified him that someone had died leaving no one behind, Frits would go to that recently deceased person’s apartment to get a feel for that person’s life, desires, and interests. Then, based on the information he gathered, he’d select some music to play at the funeral — a funeral only he’d be attending. He brought flowers with him to leave at the grave site, as well.
For more than a decade, Frits did this all by himself. But in 2002, a poet named Frank Starik asked if he could get involved. Starik believed that the recently passed deserve eulogies, even if they don’t have friends, and offered to compose poems for each. Frits suddenly had a partner.
Today, the pair are known in Amsterdam as Stichting De Eenzame Uitvaart — the Lonely Funeral Foundation. (They have an official website, here, but it’s in Dutch.) And they’ve started something of a movement. In a few other cities in the Netherlands and Belgium, other volunteers are mimicking Frits and Starik’s work, bringing music and poetry to those in their areas who similarly died without a friend.
From the Archives: Until Death Do Us Reunite: Another touching story from after death.
Not Related: Instead of linking to something about graveyards or funerals (which would be terrible), here’s a reminder to check out AwesomeClaus.com, my site of fun gift ideas under $20.