An outdated rule, which had caused some consternation for a heartbroken Carbonear family has been repealed. The move came as a great relief to the family and to the satisfaction of all parties concerned.
After a full week under the intense glare of the media’s perpetual lights, a cemetery controversy in Carbonear has been resolved to the satisfaction of a heartbroken family.
The three churches, which operate the Interfaith Cemetery have all agreed to change the rules to allow a grieving family their wish to purchase three adjacent burial plots in the cemetery. The move will also allow them to one day all rest in peace together with their terminally ill daughter.
David and Melody Engram issued a statement Thursday, June 25 saying: “All three churches have advocated the change of the Interfaith Cemetery rules, and will now allow single, double and triple plots upon death.”
In a June 19 interview, the Engrams had told The Compass they never wanted to air their concerns in public, or embarrass members of the Interfaith Cemetery Committee in Carbonear. However, they were left with no other choice but to go public with their story.
The Engrams’ 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,” said David. “We just want to be together once again... when we are all gone, for us to all be together, so we need three plots.”
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. “Their 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,” David explained.
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.
“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.
After the story first hit the airwaves on CBC’s Here & Now June 18, no stone was left unturned in the intensive media blitz, which ensued.
Following a closed door meeting Monday afternoon, June 22 members of the Interfaith Cemetery Committee sent a letter to all three churches, asking them to consider changing their rules.
By Tuesday, June 23, two of the three churches had signed an agreement allowing three plots to be sold together.
Monsignor E.T. Bromley of St. Patrick’s R.C. Church confirmed both he and the St. James Anglican rector had signed a document allowing three plots to be bought together. That would allow Amelia Engram to be buried between her parents.
Bromley said the decision could only be made final once the Bethany United Church pastor signed on. While he understood the United Church to be in agreement with the move, they had to go through a committee process first.
“ Processes are ongoing said Bethany UC Pastor, Rev. Stephen Matthews.
Once all three churches signed on, a directive was given to Cemetery Committee chair Milton Peach on the policy change.
Welcoming the change, the Engrams pointed out last week: “It was never a matter of them not selling us the plots. It was a matter of much needed change coming to the rules regarding the allowable number of plots per family at time of death.”
Bearing no ill feelings towards the cemetery committee, the Engrams said: “We realize now you were simply trying to enforce the rules and we hope that anyone... hurt in this process will forgive all of these actions and understand we were motivated out of grief for our daughter.”
They also said they, “regretted comments made by many against you (cemetery committee), and feel they were unjustified and ill informed.”
Comforted by the resolution, the Engrams concluded: “ We can now find some comfort during this difficult time in knowing we will all, once again lay together as a family.”
Two-year-old Amelia Engram 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...,” said David.
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.
“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.
When The Compass finally reached Milton Peach late Friday afternoon June 19, the Cemetery Committee chair declined any further comment on the situation, suggesting the committee felt it would be inappropriate.
“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.”
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?”
Suggesting at the time the committee is, “making a big mistake, morally and ethically,” Bob Ryan, Melody Engram’s uncle, said, “this has to change, there’s something wrong with this.”