Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Help Me Howard: Grave Marker
First they lose a loved one to a murderer. Now, finding their family member's grave brings more grief. It sits unmarked a year and a half after they paid for a plaque to honor him. Here's tonight's Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- Under the definition of senseless crime, just put this picture:
Haydee Govea: "He handed over the wallet, but the guy still shot him, still shot him."
This was Haydee in December of 2007, after her brother Fernando Reina was murdered at a Miami Gardens ATM even though he handed the gunman the $60 he had just got from the machine.
Haydee Govea: "Some days I still don't make it through the day."
In the past 19 months, Fernando's alleged killer has been caught. Fernando's body has been laid to rest, but every time his family goes to the grave site to pay their respects, they get more heartache.
Haydee Govea: "A year and a half later, here we are with my brother buried, and there is no closure because my brother's name is not on his grave."
A funeral home was paid $557 for a bronze plaque to mark Fernando's grave, but the only thing here are the four holes to install the plaque.
Haydee Govea: "My mom has contacted them at least every two months, after my brother's death. Where is the tombstone? Where is the tombstone?"
People deal with their grief in different ways. To Haydee, the company ignoring their contract to install the plaque is an insult to Fernando.
Haydee Govea: "It's a slap in the face. They don't care that my brother was killed. It's a slap in the face basically."
Insulting to a dead man and traumatizing to his family who comes to visit him at his unmarked grave.
Haydee Govea: "For me to go to a grave and not see his name, that hurts me because that to me doesn't seem like they care."
Haydee's family keeps calling the funeral home and keeps getting excuses.
Haydee Govea: "They keep giving us the runaround: Oh, it's going to be on, it's going to be put on, it's going to be put on. To me, I feel that is cruel because we did what we had to do, and we did our part. Where is your part?"
It's painful enough to lose a brother, even more agonizing when you have to explain to your child why his uncle's grave is not marked like everyone else's.
Haydee Govea: "I have my son, and he keeps questioning, why is my uncle's name not on there? To explain to a child, to an 8-year-old, that he is there, but his name is not there. What do you tell an 8-year-old?"
That's tough to answer. What Haydee wants is easy.
Haydee Govea: "I want it done. I want it done, so we know that what we paid for is there, and that we could grieve him when we get there."
Well, 19 months have passed and no plaque. Howard, after you die, do you lose your rights?
Howard Finkelstein: "No. This contract is no different than any other business contract and 19 months to make a plaque is ridiculous, but since it's a breach of contract, all they can do is get their money back if we can't get the company to produce the plaque right away."
When we contacted the funeral home's corporate headquarters, they moved quickly. The plaque was installed the very next day. A spokesperson told us there was a miscommunication between the funeral home and the cemetery. Howard says the state has created an agency just to deal with death issues.
Howard Finkelstein: "The State's Division of Funeral and Cemetery Services regulates death-related companies. If they find a company at fault, they can fine them or revoke their license."
The family finally got to see what they wanted. Fernando's memorial plaque placed on his tombstone, under his name. It says in Spanish, "My soul will rise to the sky."
Haydee Govea: "This is definitely a closure for the family. Now that we all see that it's been completed, makes it better for us to go there and feel like he is actually there, and it's over, and we feel satisfied. Right, Alex? We feel happy that it's done, and he's resting in peace now."
When you help people you want to smile, but you can't be too happy about a plaque for a man that should be running around enjoying life.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Division of Funeral and Cemetery Services
Funeral & Cemetery Hotline 1-800-323-2627