‘We didn’t get a funeral — just an envelope to the door’ - Family receive son’s remains in envelope

Cormac O'Keeffe speaks to a Wicklow couple whose nightmare was only beginning when they travelled to England for an induced delivery after their son was diagnosed with a fatal foetal abnormality.  

Days after their loss, while they were still reeling from grief, Gaye and Gerry Edwards received their son’s remains in an envelope.

“Joshua’s remains arrived during the day,” Gerry said, recalling the moment at their Co Wicklow home.

“The estate was empty as people were at work. It was a big Jiffy envelope and [it] didn’t dawn on me what it was. Gaye could see the delivery van and had figured it out and Gaye broke down and I was trying to be normal for the delivery man. I just held the envelope that contained our son’s remains. That was our funeral — a fucking envelope handed over the door.”

Gaye and Gerry had been forced to travel to England to undergo an induced delivery for their son at 22 weeks’ gestation. Joshua had a fatal foetal abnormality.

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According to Irish law, Gaye would have to carry the pregnancy to term, even though the foetus was not going to live.

Gerry said that, after the diagnosis, Gaye couldn’t face going to work.

“At this stage, total strangers were putting their hands on the bump, and saying ‘you must be so excited’. To pretend would be wrong, but we couldn’t tell someone that the baby isn’t going to live, making them feel awkward.”

Gaye said: “One thing that I remember very clearly and a very visceral level; I didn’t leave the house in the two weeks between diagnosis and termination.

“What were people going to say to me? The isolation was very pervasive because we were made to feel that we were an extraordinary exception.”

Speaking at the launch of Amnesty’s ‘She Is Not a Criminal’ report, Gaye said that on top of the “devastation” at her son’s diagnosis was the “sense of bewilderment and abandonment”.

She spoke of the difficulty of contacting clinics and hospitals in England that could help them. In the hospital they found, they experienced “sympathy and compassion that had been absent in Dublin”.

Gaye and Gerry chose to have the ashes couriered to them in Ireland — an option not always given to families. But doing this meant not having the chance to properly mourn their loss.

Gerry said: “If we had continued in our hospital, we could have been under the same care, our families could have seen him, we could have waked him, he could have had a funeral. We felt alone. There was no one to talk to, no one understood.”

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