Family’s grief after memory book removed from Sunderland Crematorium

Linda Johnson of Eden Vale, Sunderland, who is angry that a bokk of memories has been taken away from Sunderland Crematoriaum.
Linda Johnson of Eden Vale, Sunderland, who is angry that a bokk of memories has been taken away from Sunderland Crematoriaum.
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A GRIEVING daughter has spoken today of her distress that a book filled with precious memories of her parents has been removed from Sunderland’s crematorium.

Linda Johnson has been using the book to write messages to her mum Elizabeth Ann, since she died eight years ago, and dad Robert, who passed away shortly before Christmas, aged 88.

Copy pic of Linda Johnson's parents Robert (Bob) and Elizabeth (Nancy) Low

Copy pic of Linda Johnson's parents Robert (Bob) and Elizabeth (Nancy) Low

The 64-year-old claims dozens of other families use it in the same way – but the council say it was never intended to be a book of remembrance and have removed it.

The authority say there is an official book of remembrance in place for people to write into – with fees starting at £47 and going up to £263.

When Linda went to Bishopwearmouth Cemetery on Father’s Day to write a heartfelt message to her late dad, she was upset to find the book she has used for almost a decade had no blank pages.

She said that for years, staff at the crematorium have been adding in extra pages to the book once it was full, to allow people to keep writing their messages to loved ones.

When she went back to the crematorium, off Chester Road, the next day to try again, the book – and its table and chair – had been removed.

Linda said: “The book was a real comfort to me.

“It was so upsetting when I couldn’t write a message on Father’s Day, and then when it was taken away.

“I spoke to the council about it and they said it was never intended to use for condolences.

“But some people go there solely to write their thoughts in that book.

“Not everyone can afford lavish bouquets on anniversaries. It is so distressing that it has now gone, especially for anyone when it is the first anniversary of their loved ones’ deaths.

“I think it is disgusting that they didn’t put a sign up or anything to let people know what was happening.”

Remy Barrios Smith, of Sunderland, also used the book regularly.

Recently, she went to the crematorium with husband Kevin to mark the eighth anniversary of his dad Joe’s death.

She said: “We can’t believe it.

“How cruel it is for someone to remove this special book that we use to scribble our thoughts and feelings.

“It helped ease our pains by expressing how much we loved him.

“Just writing in that book, in the memorial place of loved ones, is a great comfort to families.”

Sunderland City Council say they removed the book because it was never intended to be used for messages to loved ones, and was a comments book about the crematorium itself.

Councillor Michael Mordey, portfolio holder for City Services, said: “We have spoken to people concerned to explain why the book was removed and hope that they can be patient and understand our reasoning, while new arrangements are put in place.

“The book in question was originally placed in the crematorium as a way of recording people’s comments about the quality of service provided there.

“Over time, people have begun to use this book to record comments on their loved ones, even though there is an official book of remembrance at the crematorium for that very purpose.

“We believe the service comments book was neither adequate or appropriate for permanently remembering a loved one alongside requested comments about the service we provide. We therefore plan to change how we do this.

“We also have an electronic book which enables families to view different dates of entry from the book of remembrance if they cannot attend on the specific anniversary of their loved one’s passing.

“We always listen to what people tell us about how they would like to see bereavement services delivered and are considering what options are available to go with what is already available.”

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