Michael Wright

To WhomIt May Concern,

My Mother recently passed away from a heart attack here in Dubai, which came suddenly and without any fore‐warning whatsoever. As such, I was completely unprepared in any way for the grief that ensued – something which I am still coming to terms with today and will doubtless be so doing for many years to come.

On the subject of logistics, however, not only was I ill‐prepared for such an eventuality, but also completely ignorant of how to even go about the repatriation of my Mother to the United Kingdom for burial. It was not something thatI had ever even considered before.

Thankfully, on the night that my Mother passed away, I was handed a leaflet for “Grafco” at the hospital and quite frankly, withoutthat contact numberI wouldn’t have known where to start.

The following morning, I awoke to the reality of my life without my Mother, which seemed completely incomprehensible, but I also awoke to the reality that I needed to somehow start organising for her funeral and burial, which I obviously wanted to take place in her home town. It was at this point that I remembered the leaflet that the nurse at the hospital had given me – in times of grief, we tend to operate on a form of auto‐pilot without a great deal of conscious thought – and asI had no other options available to me, Irang the number.

I can’t express how at ease I felt with John and his team from the very moment that he answered the telephone. Here was someone obviously used to dealing with grief, albeit vicariously, and his telephone manner instantly made me feel gratefulto the nurse at the hospital the previous evening. I immediately felt that I was in not only competent, but understanding, hands.

There were issues to be dealt with that I wouldn’t have begun to imagine, and John spent a great deal of time with me on that first day explaining the procedures that would need to be gone through with a multitude of Government Departments prior to being able to have my Mother released for repatriation.

Needless to say, just like every other facet of being an expatriate when we come into contact with bureaucracy, processes can seem ludicrous and long‐winded to say the least; maddening at the best of times. But when it comes to having to deal with a bureaucratic minefield whilst simultaneously having to deal with your grief, I can’t begin to explain how difficult it becomes to accept.

I will be forever in John and histeam’s debt for the fact that they took over as much of the dealing with authorities as they could. Obviously there are integral parts of the process that require the presence of family, but where possible, Grafco ensured that they dealt with things themselves and reported back to me with regular updates, thus allowing me time to spend grieving with my wife, Sister and Father.

During the times that I did come into contact with the authorities through this process, I can say whole‐heartedly that there is no compassion; no understanding; no empathy. With the benefit of time having passed, I suppose that I can grudgingly understand that these people are simply civil servants, whose English might not necessarily be particularly good, and whose job it isto make sure that their procedures are followed. At the time, though, with emotions running very close to the surface, each contact with an authority meant that grief was quickly replaced with anger and frustration.

“Grafco” probably dealt with 80% of the procedures autonomously, which was an enormous relief. I can sincerely say that if I had to deal with any more uncaring people at that time of loss, my temper would have snapped, which would have served no positive purpose. John and his team’s demeanour, though, when dealing with these authorities was perfect. They somehow managed to generate a calming influence on my family and I whilst at the same time expediting the entire process where possible.

From my Mother’s passing to her being released for transportation to the United Kingdom took eight days, which atthe time seemed an inordinately lengthy wait. Whilst at the mortuary, however, there were relatives of other people attempting to repatriate their loved ones, some of whom had been deceased for up to five months – and still they were being turned away due to incorrect paperwork. This may sound like a strange emotion to feel, but with the benefit of hind sight, I can truthfully say that I felt lucky to be there with John and his team.

They held my hand, figuratively speaking, for eight days, and offered a proverbial shoulder to cry on throughout. And whilst I am sure that I was not their only client going through similar processes at the time, it appeared as if I was. Without hem, I simply would not have coped.

The last thing that I would like to bring to the attention of whoever is reading this is one of cost. Clearly at the time of losing a loved one, you would undoubtedly be prepared to pay whatever it takes to gain some peace of mind that you are being helped by compassionate professionals and that you are in the best possible hands – that feeling is absolutely priceless. But the cost of “Grafco’s” service, in my opinion, is totally under‐valued. Although I have no point of reference for comparison, as my Mother is the only relative I have lost whilst living overseas, I would doubt that a better service could possibly exist,regardless ofthe cost.

So if you have lost a loved one recently, and need or want to repatriate them, you will need to engage the services of a professional, and there couldn’t exist a better, more professional, more compassionate group of people to assist you through your time of grief and to expedite the process on your behalf. Speaking from personal experience, I urge you not to attempt this alone for the sake of your own sanity.

I will always hold a debt of heartfelt gratitude towards “Grafco” as there is absolutely nothing that can ever be done to repay them. I conclude, therefore, by saying thank you John, Ronnie and everyone else.

Yours faithfully,
Michael Wright