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John and Mary Keohane, Keohane's funeral home at old Youghal road in Mayfield Picture: Eddie O'Hare
John and Mary Keohane, Keohane's funeral home at old Youghal road in Mayfield Picture: Eddie O'Hare
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Uncertainty over last wishes sees people’s ashes left on mantlepieces for years 

ASHES of the deceased can be left sitting on mantlepieces for years because of uncertainty over a loved one’s last wishes.

That’s according to funeral director John Keohane of Keohane’s Funeral Home who has dealt with countless Cork families at a crossroads, struggling to decide how to treat their loved one’s ashes or how best to honour the deceased.

He said that during a lifetime, a person’s wishes can change many times over, resulting in confusion for those close to them.

“A person might tell one family member that they’d like to be buried before later telling another that they want their ashes scattered,” he said.

“When someone dies emotions are running high, making it even more difficult to come to a decision. As a result, ashes can be left sitting on a mantlepiece for years with their loved ones at a loss about what to do.”

He said that over the years communication in families often breaks down due to disagreements.

“When those lines of communication have been severed it can be very sad. It’s not uncommon to see members of the same family completely divided at a funeral as a result of a long-standing feud.

“This can make organising a funeral even more difficult. It is for this reason important — where possible — that any issues like this are resolved.”

He said that advance funeral planning has become another off-shoot of emigration.

“Death is always going to be a taboo, but there are people coming to us as young as 60. While they may not be unwell many of their family members are scattered abroad.

“This means that everything is organised in the event of a sudden death. It’s just another offshoot of emigration really.

“We have never dealt with a very young person planning their funeral. Even if they are ill and have been given a very short time to live their family will never give up on them.”

He highlighted a source of anxiety among a number of people organising their own funeral.

“You get people who wish to be buried in a family plot. Often times there will be no room in a grave and they are wondering where they are going to end up.”

He said that while planning funerals early can be difficult for families it can spare a lot of stress in the future.

“If a person formally states their final wishes family members tend to get upset, but what they don’t realise is that this family member is actually doing them a huge favour.”

John, who owns funeral homes in Copley Street and Mayfield highlighted how personal touches can add to service.

In a previously Evening Echo article he said: “Some of them would make you smile,” he said. “One person requested to have a bottle of whiskey place in their coffin after they died complete with two glasses.

“This was a very sociable person who wanted to pour a glass for whoever they met on the way to Heaven. That person had a large turnout at their funeral. Every funeral is unique and different in its own way.”