Friday, October 14, 2005

Widow tells of funeral nightmare in Spain

Margaret Ayling, whose husband the well known local figure Leslie died last month (September 28), has summed up her horrific experience over the past two months with a grim warning –“do not die in Spain.”

A catalogue of badly handled situations, both medical and funereal, culminated last week when Spanish authorities refused a last minute humanitarian concession for her to bring her husband’s body to the Rock for a funeral mass and then allow re-entry into Spain for cremation.

But in addition from bravely fighting illness for some time the troubles for the Aylings came when a month before his death he required hospitalisation and was taken to a new private hospital on the Costa, where, after a series of medical episodes, Mrs Ayling alleges that doctors took the decision not to resuscitate him, without consulting her wishes. She was also critical of some of the treatment he received.

In contrast she has praise for the state medical services in Spain.

But her trial was not over in the hospital with his death. Mrs Ayling then found that the British run funeral company that handled her husband’s body failed to meet her expectations of dignity. She told the Chronicle that the body was placed in an undersized coffin and manipulated to enter including the feet being folded back.

Then there was resistance to her wish for a cremation in La Linea. When she finally moved the body to her home in Sotogrande she had to have her husband there 10 days. He was taken back and forth including to an embalming that damaged and bloated the body. This was then exacerbated by attempts to compensate with bad makeup.

“He had looked finally at peace and then returned from embalming almost unrecognisable,” she said.

It was not until a fifth coffin was produced that Leslie Ayling had a proper place of rest – this says Mrs Ayling thanks to Albert Codali who gave up his free time to try and rescue this situation and see her through.

She also commended Bishop Caruana and the Dean for their support when, at the last minute it emerged the authorities would not allow the body to leave Spain and return.

At this stage Joe Bossano, Opposition Leader and Pepe Carracao the PSOE senator intervened in a bid to resolve the issue. But just as the paperwork appeared to be approved on the eve of the funeral ceremony the authorities reneged.

Mrs Ayling believes that this was because it was thought to be a ‘military funeral’, which was not in fact the case although Mr Ayling had a military background.

However, official Spanish sources say that the final decision was taken on health law procedures that do not allow for the return of a body that has been allowed to leave a country.

In the end she had him cremated first in La Linea in a ceremony barely attended but for the Bishop and the Dean who came over at short notice. Then the main ceremony in Gibraltar last Friday with his ashes.

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