Uproar over 'body-shaming' even in death
Not even in death can an overweight person rest in peace.
Grieving families in the small coastal town of Tongaat, KwaZulu-Natal, are being asked to send photographs and measurements of their dead loved ones to funeral parlours as the furnace at the local crematorium cannot accommodate oversized caskets.
The directive comes in the wake of a recent report on the facility, which is about 40 years old.
A Tongaat funeral director, who did not want to be named, said oversized caskets were usually reserved for bodies that are overweight or "broad in stature".
"Oversized caskets are used at least two to three times a week in our parlour, so you can imagine the strain this is putting on families and the parlour," he said.
While most grieving families understand that their loved one may be "too big for Tongaat", others do not take lightly to them being "body-shamed".
"It's insensitive. Imagine being told that your loved one is too big to be accommodated," the funeral director said. "You've just lost your loved one, you're daunted by having to plan the funeral, and then you are asked for measurements and photographs because [they] may be too fat."
He said most clients want to send the best picture of their loved one, which often is old and doesn't reflect their size at death.
"Now imagine asking for a second picture. It's not right."
He said the crematorium management had not provided the measurements of caskets that are deemed too large.
"What is considered an oversized casket? Every manufacturer has different sizes, so do we then look at the weight of the person or how broad their shoulders are? We have no guidelines. We are simply told that this casket is too big to cremate."
Tongaat families have to pay more to cremate their relatives in other areas.
"The cost in Tongaat is R670, while Verulam is about R1,100 and Clare Estate is R1,835. The cost is putting strain on everyone," the funeral director said.
eThekwini municipality spokesperson Mandla Nsele confirmed that oversized coffins were not allowed at Tongaat crematorium.
"Oversized caskets and dome caskets have been turned away at the oThongathi crematorium after consultation with all stakeholders and undertakers.
"The relevant department has evidence of the combustion issues which transpired within the furnace chamber after these type of caskets were inserted," Nsele said.
He recommended cremation using coffin inner shells or standard biodegradable coffins.