Chances are you have not heard of Peter Stefan. Stefan is a funeral director at the funeral home Graham Putney & Mahoney in Worcester, Massachusetts.
His funeral home is in a poor area of the city and has been part of the community for over a hundred and fifty years. That’s a lot of funerals. That’s a lot of bodies.
And for Mr. Stefan it’s a lot of unwanted bodies.
Because one of his specialties is providing funerals for the unwanted. It is his modus operandi. He takes on the bodies of the homeless, bodies of murderers, bodies of those in what one commentator said were “unfortunate circumstances”, bodies that are not claimed, bodies despised by the world.
These are the unwanted bodies.
He doesn’t do it for money. Most of these unwanted bodies have no one who will pay the cost. He does this out of conviction – conviction that even the unwanted deserve a burial.
I heard a story about him on the radio and I can’t get the words ‘unwanted bodies’ out of my mind. The phrase keeps playing, an iPod on repeat.
Unwanted bodies. Those who no one claims
Unwanted bodies. No one in the world willing to connect themselves to the person.
Unwanted bodies. No one will grieve and many will say good riddance, a scum bag gone, someone who wasted society’s time, a life that deserved to die now in the ground. No sorrow there.
But Peter Stefan takes those bodies. He has done it for years but recently made national headlines because he took the body of the alleged Boston Bomber, killed a few days after the bombing in a police stand-off. He did not back down on his convictions and his convictions are that every person deserves a burial – no matter who they are.
I have no idea if Mr. Stefan is acting out of religious principles – but it feels right that someone would be willing to do this, it seems proper that the unwanted are buried, or cremated by one who is willing to do the unpopular.
For me the conviction comes as I pass by those unwanted bodies that are still living – for they are everywhere, and they are still alive. They are living, breathing unwanted souls. They come in all ages, shapes, and sizes. They are in every country, every city, every town. They are called the Dalit in India because India is at least honest about its class system. Elsewhere, in places where there is supposedly no class system, they are the unspoken unwanted, as if not mentioning will make them go away.
So what will I do when these unwanted bodies come across my path? Will I connect with them, communicate with them, attempt to understand their stories?
I’m not sure. While I like to think so, I know that it is easy to ignore that which we wish to ignore. How about you? What do you think of Peter Stefan’s willingness to take “unwanted bodies”? How does that sit with your soul as you think about those around you who are living unwanted?
- Uncle Arranging Boston Bomb Suspect’s Burial Rites (npr.org)
- Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s Body Moved To Worcester Funeral Home (boston.cbslocal.com)
- Uncle arranging Boston bomb suspect’s burial rites (cnsnews.com)
On a different subject…..Check out this amazing photo taken by my brother and submitted to the National Park Photo Contest. The title is “Realignment” and if you think it worthy – you can vote as well as ‘like’ it on Facebook! http://www.sharetheexperience.org/entry/11432599
5 thoughts on “Unwanted Bodies”
Just so, Trinity. What superstitious harm is there in an “unwanted body”? It’s just a body. The person who used to live in it might have been a problem, but that hardly matters after they die.
I love the fact that in America, we state that all men are created equal and that all people have value and worth, regardless of where they are from or who their father was. We don’t really believe this and we certainly don’t act like it, but we know that we are supposed to believe this. When we get caught disrespecting a street person or use the words “trailer trash”, we usually know that this is wrong and are ashamed, (at least a lot of people are). Now if we can only translate these values into daily actions that show kindness to the “unwanted” – that is the tricky part.
I am comforted to know that there is someone who takes on this terrible task. Punishing someone after they are dead never made sense to me. What ever the person may have said or done in life is not longer our concern. It is now between them and their God.
Wow…..beautiful and convicting. Thank you.