Enza Lucifero’s father, Saverio, died on January 14. He was 87 years old.
He describes him as a very spiritual man who wanted to be buried in the Notre-Dame-des-Neiges cemetery, on the slopes of Mount Royal, the symbolic center of the city where he lived most of his life.
But it took eight months to bury him there, the result of a long-running labor dispute between cemetery employees and the nonprofit organization that runs it.
On Tuesday, Enza and her family finally buried him. It was an emotional experience, he said, that he reopened old wounds.
“I’m happy for him,” Enza said of her father, “because he’s finally where he wanted to be and the sense of relief I feel is tremendous.”
Now that the labor dispute is over, for the most part, families are returning to bury their loved ones in the cemetery.
But there is still a backlog of bodies in storage that may not be buried for months, and Enza’s father’s ceremony was marred by reminders that this was not a normal burial.
They were on a strict schedule, and as they drove through the site to the place where Saverio’s coffin lay, they noticed towering bushes, dead grass, and branches scattered across the lawn.
Cemetery staff are back to work, but it will take months to clean up the mess that accumulated during the strike, including debris from a spring ice storm, Enza estimates.
“The cemetery has lost its glory,” he said. “The grass is burned. It will take years for that grass to grow back and be beautiful. There were no flowers anywhere.”
Next to the grave lay a coffin ready to be buried. Inside was Enza’s father. But the eight months that had passed since her death had cut her off from the reality of her passing. It is painful to lose a loved one, Enza said, and even more painful to have to mourn her passing twice.
That was what she and her family, including her mother, Saverio’s wife, had to do, she said.
The passage of time had also sown some confusion in Enza. In January, the family chose a coffin for Saverio. Now then, that same coffin was in front of Enza, but was it really the same one? Was this his father? Or had some mistake been made? He couldn’t visualize it inside.
The confusion, which was cleared up thanks to a nameplate, added to the strangeness of the matter.
A kind priest brought dignity back to the process, she said, and made her think of how happy she was to finally have the stress of her father’s funeral off her back. Now, she thought to herself, he finally rests in the place where she wanted to be, not far from Beaver Lake, where he brought her when she was a child.
When the priest finished the ceremony and the coffin was lowered to the ground, only one incomplete detail remained: the engraving of the date of death on his father’s tombstone. It can’t be done because these engravings are usually handled by cemetery office staff and are still conspicuous.
Some families, however, are still waiting for a deadline to bury their loved ones, and it may not arrive for months, such is the magnitude of the delay.
Michel St-Amour, a spokesman for the cemetery and a member of the board of directors of the Fabrique de la paroisse Notre-Dame, the nonprofit organization that runs it, says the pace of burials will increase in the coming weeks as the employees clean the ground. .
Hopefully, he said, the backlog of 300 bodies still to be buried will be sorted out by December. The cemetery will open to the public on September 11, and by then the grounds should be mostly clear, except for a few areas where the damage is more extensive, St-Amour said.
“Our families were very patient,” he added, “they tell us they are happy to be called back and some of them already have an appointment.” [for a burial]”.
Jimmy Koliakoudakis, who buried his mother in the cemetery on Wednesday after a long wait, said the postponement was something no other family should have to go through.
“It should be an essential service,” he said. “When someone dies, the right thing to do is just proceed to the burial.”
Koliakoudakis said that, like Enza, she was relieved when she was finally able to bury her mother next to her husband, where she wanted to be.
“Now they are together forever,” he said. “It is now at rest, where it should be.”