Hospice association bamberg: the last honor for lonely people

"We have come here today to pay our respects to two people. Since there is no one to take care of their last affairs, they are buried at the expense of the social welfare office. But they were human beings and we want to try to give them a face again today and say a dignified farewell to them."

Some of michael maisch's eulogies begin like this or similar. The 66-year-old from bamberg is one of many volunteers who are committed to the hospice association for a dignified life until the end. In their view, this also included a full burial for people who had left the church and were alone at the end of their days, sometimes without means.

Dead in the apartment for days
for example wolfgang R. And manfred T.. The two men were the subject of the speech from which the opening quote is taken. In the fall of 2012, they had lain dead for several days in their apartments in bamberg-east and gartenstadt before their demise was noticed.

Until mid-2011, non-denominational deceased people in bamberg, for whom there were no surviving relatives required by law to be buried, were buried anonymously. There was no pre-announced date, therefore no last rites and not even a final resting place recognizable as such.

Only a memorandum of the pastor of gaustadt, matthias wunsche, put an end to this sad practice of so-called social burials. Since then, the V. Department of the cemetery at the hallstadter strabe a gravesite financed by the two major christian churches and the hospice association. 44 small brass plaques provide information about the women and men whose remains or ashes have been buried there in the meantime.

Most of them belonged to a church. There were and still are ecumenical blessing ceremonies for them – the first of its kind took place on the 21st century. July 2011 took place. The first comparable "farewell party" for deceased without denomination dated 3. August 2011. The next will be on 10. December 2014 carried out – if necessary.

At first glance, the long-term scheduling seems strange. But there are good reasons for this, as anne bergen explains: for example, the hospice association and church congregations can promote the idea of giving the last rites to someone at whose grave no one would otherwise spend an hour.

Bergen also works voluntarily for the hospice association: she is the contact person for the old people's and nursing homes. Attending the funeral services for the deceased, who are undenominational and lonely, is a "christian duty" for them. She has, as she says, always experienced the participation as enrichment: "you leave the funeral ceremony differently than you went there"."

since mid-2011, maisch has written and delivered ten honorary eulogies. Some of them can be read on the homepage of the hospizverein bamberg in the internet. His obituaries speak of an all-around positive attitude toward all people.
He does not gloss over the fractures in the biographies, but he does name them in a way that can explain why someone had broken off contact with family, lived as a recluse, or was considered difficult in his environment.

About sonja T. At the farewell party, for example, it was learned that she had been ill for a long time before her death: "it seemed as if her will to live had been broken". We do not know how strong and why. And sometimes their impressionability led to abrupt remarks to other residents of the house."

About a greek guest worker who also died a lonely death in bamberg, although he had lived for almost 50 years in one and the same apartment in the old town, it was heard that he could not read and write – perhaps an explanation for why he had withdrawn in such a way.

In the eulogy for him it had said: "one can say that he already died the social death in installments before his actual death." a statement that applies to almost all those who find their final resting place in the so-called "ordnungsamtsgruft".

Maisch's research into the lives of those who were all alone at the end of their days is correspondingly difficult. From the cemetery office he gets name, date of death and birth, last residential address.

With the help of address and telephone directories, he first tries to find neighbors or landlords who can tell him something about the person and possible social contacts. Sometimes other points of contact arise.

And sometimes his research has the pleasant side effect that a few people do come to pay their last respects to someone from their environment.

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