Gravediggers at the Roseau Cemetary
Gravediggers at the Roseau Cemetary

They are one of the least recognized people in the funeral industry, yet one of the most important.

Some think they are just fishermen or low-income employees who have a love affair with a rum bottle and are looking for a quick way to make a buck.

But without them, you will not be able to bury your loved ones with respect and dignity.

We are speaking here of the gravediggers, and yes, they have come into the spotlight as one of the country's prestigious funeral homes observed its 33rd anniversary this month.

Lyndhurst Funeral Home was established in 1988. The Home was created to meet Dominica's need for funeral home services.

Last year the funeral home recognized two stalwarts in the industry posthumously. And this time it's the cemetery workers who are getting the recognition they deserve.

Manager of Lyndhurst Funeral Home, Josephine Dublin-Prince, says "this year we will remind them that they too helped to make the families feel at ease by doing a great job."

And one can't deny the job done by gravediggers. Which family would want to arrive at the cemetery to find the space not prepared for burial? Or how awkward would it be that when it is time to cover the casket there is no cemetery worker to haul shovelfuls of dirt until the 6-foot-deep space is properly covered?

Dublin-Prince pointed out that the institution goes above and beyond to ensure the deceased are well taken care of in the burial process.

"It is important too that we connect with the gravediggers because they are an important part of the general funeral service," she said.

As Lyndhurst Funeral Home recognizes 33 years in the business with several good reviews (and some mixed) from clients, it would be remiss of the institution not to recognize the challenges which confront it. These obstacles come with the passage of time and the natural evolution of practices and processes.

A major challenge at the moment is the absence of a crematorium on the island. There has been a notable increase in client requests to have the body of a loved one cremated. However, the lack of such a facility on the island is an extra cost to the family as they now have to seek such services in St. Lucia or Barbados.

"Lyndhurst Funeral Home is looking into this," Dublin-Prince said. "We are a regional organization and we have a crematorium in Barbados."

Another obstacle facing the establishment, and this has been a concern for some years now, is the limited space at gravesites. This has led to a growing number of clients looking at family plots and private grounds as an option for burying their deceased.

The manager of the funeral home would like to work with the various institutions involved, such as the city and village councils to address this concern. "This is important in terms of cleanliness of the gravesite. The appreciation of the gravediggers is, for me, a very important aspect of our work because their work is as important as any that is done by any of the service providers."

Gravediggers in Roseau, Soufriere, and other communities around the island were recognized by the Funeral Home during its anniversary celebration.

The vision for the Funeral Home is to become a one-stop-shop where clients can access and arrange everything including the clothes to be worn by the deceased, contacting the pastor or priest, and printing the programmes. This, the institution sees as a way to reduce the stress levels of the family who has to plan and prepare a funeral service.

As regards the way forward, Dublin-Prince said: "We will continue to be the best, the most professional and to ensure that our clients are always happy after being served."