By Ononye VC (News Editor)

The latest experience where hundreds of corpses preserved inside and outside a public mortuary in Onitsha were consumed by a bush fire is nothing to cheer about.
One can imagine his loved one undergo unsolicited cremation at the wrong place and inappropriate time.
It was not the first time such a chilling and heartbreaking story would be heard across nations and states.
But just as there’s something bad, there’s also something good.
In Onitsha,a very cheering news came around.
It is entirely a beautiful opposite of the aforementioned sad story.
It is all about a magnificent transit home for the dead where they are prepared physically and spiritually before their last journey on earth.
I am unveiling the ultra modern St Charles Borommeo Funeral Home Onitsha,an entirely new project of the Catholic Archdiocese of Onitsha built at a whooping cost of 130 million Naira.
I had a serious reason to visit the edifice.It was my first experience of visiting a funeral home.
When I was invited by the Borromeo Specialist Hospital manager,Very Rev Fr Dr Izunna Okonkwo to see the facility,we walked through the path of the old mortuary building.I didn’t quite like seeing the mortuary because it would always remind one of his last days.So,I hurriedly followed him along to enter a new complex behind the mortuary.
At a point,the priest took a bend into one of the apartments and I had to search for him to be able to meet up again.
As we were walking along,I said to him,”Padre,this your residence(father’s house) is well cut out and beautiful.It’s a quiet and beautiful place where anyone would love to be especially those doing research jobs and journalists who love serene and quiet places.
In response,fr Okonkwo smiled and responded,”really,it’s what everyone is praying for but…this one makes a big difference”.And I asked him how,he pointed out saying,”this beautiful place you are talking about is our new Funeral Home and not the Father’s House you mentioned earlier”.
According to Fr Okonkwo,”most of the rooms here contain remains of various persons who have undergone various stages of treatment and embalment preparatory for burial.
Fr Okonkwo revealed to me that the idea behind establishing such a beautiful home for the dead was a paradigm shift from the old system of preservation of dead bodies.
“Under the dynamic leadership of the Archbishop of Onitsha,Most Rev Valerian Okeke,there was a need to do away with the old mortuary system that makes the living scared of going near a mortuary with dead bodies littered all over the space with offensive odours all over the place”,fr Okonkwo pointed out.
Hear him,”this is part of the mission of the church(the Catholic Archdiocese of Onitsha)and vision of the Archbishop of Onitsha with his motto,”that they may have life and have it in abundance” (John10:10).
In the Archdiocese of Onitsha,we are trying to follow the footsteps of our Lord Jesus Christ who was and is still doing good,through quality healthcare provision.We strive to take care of the people from the womb to the tomb..trying to deal with two aspects of living and dying because it is the living that would eventually die.So,when somebody is living,we take good care through health care in our well equipped hospital and when after a well spent life,we take care in bidding final and painless farewell to the person..to begin another journey to the great beyond.
We have upgraded the hospital with equipments donated by our foreign partners abroad and decided to bring another innovation as regards to how people are treated when they are dead instead of dumping them in dirty and smelly environment called mortuaries.
So we came up with the idea of setting up a Funeral Home where people will come into a decent environment to keep the bodies of their loved ones before family members take the remains home.
So,the major thing we have here is to give life the decency it deserves at any point in time.
We have well trained morticians.Not only that they are well trained,they are dedicated and committed and they’re also empathic.If you are well trained and you are not committed or empathic,you will not be able to do the work well.We have other staff who are working in our funeral home here and after attending to people,those people recommend this place to others because our people try to make things less stressful to others by giving them advise to go about their funeral.
Today,we assist people to transport their dead ones down to Nigeria from other parts of the world or to other parts of the country.
We do not discriminate on religion or tribe.We see our work as corporal work of mercy by comforting the bereaved,and assisting those who lost their dear ones.
From testimonies we are receiving from people,they are satisfied with our services.At least,you were an eye witness to what happened here few minutes ago and how happy those who came to collect their mother.
The deceased died in the US and the children were not satisfied on how the body was treated.The children decided to bring her down to this place and the body was treated properly and they left our funeral home happy.We assisted them in repatriating the body from the US down to Lagos and from lagos to our funeral home.Infact after inspecting the body of their mother,one of them told me that our home is better than what they have in the US and that she never imagined that such a home is in Nigeria not to talk of Onitsha.
So,the Archbishop is really doing wonders.He is giving holistic healthcare and it may interest you to know that in Onitsha Archdiocese,we have a strong Directorate of Health.
Before we concluded our tour of the funeral home,a hefty man was trailing us and I remembered I saw this near intimidating figure earlier dashing out from a room.
When Fr Okonkwo saw him,he said to me,”Sir Ononye,there is one of the trained morticians,Raymond.He’s been busy preparing a corpse that would be flown abroad”. I immediately held my breath as father Okonkwo beckoned on him to come and greet me.I quickly waved at him to stop him from coming closer.
Mr Raymond,the mortician has something special about him.He discharged his work with great professionalism and smiling face.
He told me from a distance that he had garnered 25 years experience and that he has become used to the job.
I watched from a distance as he was opening and inspecting the various dead bodies stashed away in various sections of the facility as if he was in search of something to eat inside a freezer.
There is nothing to exergerate here.
There was no odour or smell of chemicals.Bodies deposited are given immediate attention and the cost ridiculously cheap.
That is the new St Charles Borromeo Funeral Home for you.

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