“What would Je­sus have done?”

Heart­bro­ken fam­ily of dy­ing child de­nied wish to be buried to­gether

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY DENISE PIKE

David and Melody En­gram say they never wanted to air their con­cerns in pub­lic; nei­ther did they want to try to em­bar­rass mem- bers of the In­ter­faith Ceme­tery Com­mit­tee in Carbonear. But they were left with no other choice but to go pub­lic with their story.

The En­gram’s only child Amelia has ter­mi­nal can­cer. The cou­ple wanted to pur­chase three plots to­gether at the town’s In­ter­faith Ceme­tery, but were flatly re­fused.

“ We’ve had our daugh­ter Amelia with us for the past two years and spent ev­ery pos­si­ble pre­cious mo­ment to­gether, but in a short while we are go­ing to lose her,” says David, paus­ing to com­pose him­self. “We just want to be to­gether once again... when we are all gone, for us to all be to­gether, so we need three plots. This is not a huge re­quest is it? We are beg­ging and plead­ing here.”

A few weeks ago the cou­ple asked the com­mit­tee manag­ing the In­ter­faith ceme­tery if they could buy three ad­join­ing plots - one for Amelia and two oth­ers for them­selves.

“Noel’s Fu­neral Home ac­tu­ally made the re­quest on our be­half,” said David. That re­quest was turned down. “We were out­right re­fused,” said David. “A let­ter came back, signed by Milton Peach, chair of the ceme­tery com­mit­tee, say­ing they only sell sin­gle and dou­ble plots - sin­gles if a child dies or some­one dies and they bury them in a sin­gle, and a dou­ble for a hus­band and wife,” said David.

Ac­cord­ing to the dis­traught fa­ther the com­mit­tee gave them an op­tion.

“They said we could buy two plots, one for Amelia and the other for us to ba­si­cally share,” he said.

“The first par­ent to die would be cre­mated and their ashes kept un­til the other died and then buried with them. How­ever we don’t want that, we want our daugh­ter buried be­tween us both.”

David and Melody feel the de­ci­sion by the ceme­tery com­mit­tee and the re­sponse by Peach was heart­less and cruel.

“We would never wish what we are go­ing through on any­one and it wasn’t our in­ten­tion to dis­grace or em­bar­rass any­one, but they left us with no other al­ter­na­tive but to go to the me­dia,” they said. “We don’t want to be talk­ing about this, we want to be spending all our time with Amelia and that’s what we should be do­ing. But what choice do we have?”

Malig­nant tu­mor

Two-year-old Amelia was di­ag­nosed with an ag­gres­sive malig­nant tu­mor when she was just 13 months old. At the time the fam­ily was liv­ing in Al­berta.

In June 2008 she un­der­went surgery to re­move the growth.

“We were told she was free and clear. We were elated, just jump­ing with joy,” said David. “In fact she was fea­tured on the Al­berta Telethon Net­work as a med­i­cal suc­cess story.”

Sadly the cou­ple’s joy was short lived.

This past spring the can­cer re­turned, this time with a vengeance.

“We found out around the end of May there was noth­ing else the doc­tors could do for her,” said David. “Our world ended there, it just fell right apart and will never be the same.”

The cou­ple de­cided to leave their home in Al­berta and move back to this prov­ince so Amelia could spend her last days with

her rel­a­tives and friends in Carbonear. David’s par­ents Au­drey and Bill En­gram re­side on Wil­loughby Drive, while Melody’s par­ents Jerry and Mar­ion Ryan live in Fer­muse.

“We moved to Al­berta nine years ago, but this is home. All our fam­ily is here and we wanted Amelia to be with them, to be sur­rounded by that love, in her last days,” said David.

Quickly de­te­ri­o­rat­ing

On the day of The Com­pass in­ter­view both sets of grand­par­ents are at William and Au­drey’s home. Melody is ly­ing be­side Amelia on a bed and David is tak­ing phone calls from the me­dia and try­ing to keep his daugh­ter’s mind off her pain by show­ing her pho­tos of a trip to Florida the fam­ily took a cou­ple of weeks ago. At that time Amelia was run­ning and play­ing in the wa­ter and sand just like other two-year-olds.

“She has de­te­ri­o­rated re­ally quickly,” says Melody, her voice break­ing. “It’s hard to be­lieve how fast. A week ago to­day we were in St. John’s and she was eat­ing an ice cream at the mall, to­day she can’t eat, sit or walk.”

The slight­est touch now evokes pain.

“She doesn’t want to be touched now, which is so dif­fer­ent from how she was,” adds David, who refers to his daugh­ter as Goosey. “She was very so­cia­ble, would just hug into you and al­ways wanted a kiss and to be up in your arms... didn’t you Goosey?”

Com­pas­sion needed

When she was 18 months old Amelia could speak in sen­tences, knew all her colours and could count to 19. She loves Dora the Ex­plorer, Bar­ney and Treehouse TV.

Amid all the con­cern and fuss over her last Fri­day she qui­etly says, “ex­cuse me but I can’t see my show.”

Poppy Bill who is stand­ing qui­etly by her bed adds, “you’d think Milton Peach and the ceme­tery com­mit­tee would show a lit­tle com­pas­sion and grant this sim­ple re­quest to David and Melody. This fam­ily has enough stress on them, more heart­break than any­one de­serves and so many rough days ahead.”

On Fri­day morn­ing June 19 The Com­pass at­tempted to reach Milton Peach, how­ever he was some­where in the East­ern School District car­ry­ing out his du­ties as chair­man of the board of Trustees.

“I re­ally pity the chil­dren of the East­ern School District,” adds David qui­etly. “If he (Peach) doesn’t have enough em­pa­thy or com­pas­sion to help a dy­ing child or her fam­ily, then how can he be con­cerned about the ed­u­ca­tional in­ter­ests of other chil­dren?”

In a tele­phone in­ter­view late Fri­day af­ter­noon Peach told The Com­pass the ceme­tery com­mit­tee feels it is in­ap­pro­pri­ate to com­ment on the sit­u­a­tion any fur­ther.

“We are stand­ing by our de­ci­sion, how­ever we feel the fam­ily needs time to be to­gether and we should not be adding to their stress by re­spond­ing to me­dia in­ter­views,” said Peach. “ We wish them all the best and un­der­stand their frus­tra­tion.”

Chaired by Milton Peach, the In­ter­faith Ceme­tery com­mit­tee is made up of rep­re­sen­ta­tives of three de­nom­i­na­tions: Bethany United, St. James Angli­can and St. Pa­trick’s R.C. Churches. Com­mit­tee mem­bers are: John Clarke, Harold Laing, John Col­bourne, Roy Saun­ders, Rex Cot­ter, Bern Fitz­patrick, Mike Rodgers and Joe Grif­fin.

While the ceme­tery com­mit­tee re­mained as quiet as a grave on the is­sue, it seems every­one else was talk­ing about it. VOCM’s Bill Rowe opened his Fri­day af­ter­noon Back­talk pro­gram by ask­ing: Is this “of­fi­cial­dom or bu­reau­cracy gone mad?”

CBC’s Here & Now, which first aired the story last Thurs­day, June 18, re­ported Fri­day the re­ac­tion to their web­site story was “off the charts” with their piece viewed some 16,000 times by vis­i­tors to their web­site.

Sug­gest­ing the com­mit­tee is, “ mak­ing a big mis­take, morally and eth­i­cally, Bob Ryan, Melody’s un­cle, said, “ this has to change, there’s some­thing wrong with this.”

And an in­ter­net cam­paign was launched on Face­Book call­ing for the com­mit­tee chair­man to be re­moved.

One of the com­ments posted on the En­gram’s plight sim­ply asked: “ What would Je­sus have done?”

Denise Pike/The Com­pass

HEART­BREAK­ING - David and Melody En­gram show their daugh­ter Amelia a few pho­tos of a hol­i­day they had in Florida just two weeks ago.

Photo sub­mit­ted

This fam­ily photo of Amelia was taken less than a month ago (May 26) dur­ing a trip to Florida. At that time Amelia was run­ning and play­ing in the wa­ter and sand just like other two-year-olds. But since then her mother says it’s hard to be­lieve how rapidly her lit­tle girl has de­te­ri­o­rated.

Denise Pike/The Com­pass

AMELIA - At 18 months Ameila En­gram could speak in sen­tences, knew all her colours and could count to 19. She loves

Dora the Ex­plorer, Bar­ney and Treehouse TV. The two-yearold was di­ag­nosed with an ag­gres­sive malig­nant tu­mor when she was 13 months old.

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