The Name You Leave Behind: Mourning Alone

“It’s not the name you were born with, but the name you leave behind that is important”.

I first heard this quote at school. A teacher said it to us and it’s stayed with me ever since. I’ve never forgotten it. No matter the money, the material objects, the status symbols. We can’t take it with us. It doesn’t make us better people, better friends, better family. What matters are the moments; the lives we touch, the people we meet. That is our legacy. That is what we leave behind. That is how we will be remembered.

The idea for this blog post came from a shocking headline I noticed on the BCC: ‘The man with no-one to mourn him’. Honestly, it made me want to cry. I had to read the article. To cut a long story, or article, short: Stewart Cooney (95 years old), a war veteran was set for a “lonely funeral” with only his carer and social worker to attend. Despite being a family man Stewart had outlived both his wife and only son. Noticing the expected lack of attendance, Dougie Eastwood, a trainer for the care service, decided to do something about it.

When asked what prompted him Dougie replied “We’re in the world for such a short time, no-one deserves to go to the grave without being recognized,”. This resonated with me. The article mentioned that Stewart was a World War Two veteran and having served his country deserved to be recognized. Now, although I agree with recognizing any contribution for serving our country. No-one , no matter their contribution, deserves to die alone. No-one should pass on unmourned. Luckily this story has a happy ending. Over 200 people turned up to mourn Stewart including long lost relatives with his sister among them. “There were at least nine standards and three buglers who were in their thick red ceremonial uniforms with pointed helmets. Four Territorial Army soldiers flanked the coffin,”.

This story warms my heart – a cliche I know. It makes me smile that Stewart Cooney had the funeral he deserved. That people came to mourn him and recognize the lives he had touched. Despite this, Dr Rebecca Noland of Bolton University admits that the elderly “can get forgotten”. She attributes this to our fast-paced modern lifestyle. We don’t have time for people anymore. We’re not as connected as we used to be. Although the National Association of Funeral Directors estimates that only 1% of funerals are attended by no family or friends, it does happen. If nothing else is, this should be a wake up call. We need to work on our social ties. We need to be better, more community conscious people. We need to work on the name we’ll leave behind.

For the full article click here.

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