A mix-up at a funeral in New York City caused a family to mourn a stranger’s body rather than their mother’s.
Val Jean McDonald passed away after a long battle with cancer at the age of 81 on Dec. 18, 2015. Family and friends from all over the world, as far away as Australia, came to her funeral services at McCall’s Bronxwood Funeral Home in the Bronx on Dec. 29, 2015, according to The New York Times.
At the open casket funeral, the adults in attendance said they didn’t notice anything peculiar, but McDonald’s grandchildren knew something was wrong.
Errol McDonald, one of Val Jean’s eight sons, told The Times that his 10-year-old son said to him, “That doesn’t look like grandma.”
Leroy McDonald, Errol’s brother, told WABC that his 6-year-old granddaughter said the same to him.
“She said, ‘Granddaddy, I don’t think that’s grandma,” Leroy recalled. “I know she took it hard.”
The grandchildren were assured that the woman in the casket was in fact their grandmother and that age and cancer will change somebody’s appearance.
However, it was the adults who were wrong and the children who were right.
On Jan. 5, the funeral home contacted the McDonald family and informed them of their mistake. The family was called in to identify Val Jean’s body.
According to a statement from the funeral home, the business is currently under investigation.
“We have expressed to the affected families our acute distress and sorrow over this occurrence, and we are reimbursing the McDonalds for all costs associated with the funeral,” a spokesperson for the funeral home said.
The family said they did not ask about reimbursement and weren’t aware it was happening until the business spoke to WABC.
“We didn’t really truly say goodbye to our mom like we wanted to to,” Leroy said. “She didn’t deserve that.”
The other family involved in the mix-up was also not charged for their service.
Along with her eight sons, Val Jean had more than 20 grandchildren, almost as many great-grandchildren, and three great-great-grandchildren, The New York Times notes.