Last updated: 14 may, 2010 - 09:49 GMT

Europe

The Lonely Funeral

Civil servant Ger Frits

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Every year up to 20 people die completely alone in Amsterdam. There are no friends or family to prepare their funeral or mourn over the body. Sometimes these people are illegal migrants, drug mules, or simply people who for one reason or another, cut off all social contacts.

A civil servant and a poet come together in their shared determination that those who die alone have a respectful and personal funeral.
For 20 years Ger Frits has chosen music to play at what have become known as "lonely funerals". He puts flowers on the coffin and accompanies each person to their final resting place.

A few years ago, Amsterdam poet Frank Starik decided that these people also deserved to be eulogized, and after some reluctance Frits agreed.

City workers visit the houses of the deceased to sort out their bills and administration. They also see the loneliness. The visits have a practical purpose, but they also provide inspiration for the poems read out at the service. "The funeral is a moment of reckoning and someone needs to put in a good word for you. One of our essential qualities is a need for a story.... what the lonely funeral does is return stories to people who somehow have lost theirs along the way," says Starik.

The Lonely Funeral is the fourth in this year's Global Perspective documentary series. It was made in partnership with Radio Netherlands Worldwide radio.

click Find out more about the Global Perspective documentary series.

First broadcast on BBC World Service 14 May 2010.

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Global Perspective 2010

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