A couple of weeks ago, one news story really hit the Lingoing team. Eastern Daily Press appealed for a BSL interpreter for the “Deaf Man From Norwich” who could not find an interpreter for his father’s funeral. This truly had an impact on us, as here in Lingoing we believe that every deaf person should always have an interpreter when they need one, especially with such a personal event. We contacted David Hall to find out whether or not he was able to have access at his dad’s funeral and we learnt about his story. Although full of sadness, it also had a powerful impact on us to learn how a person’s selflessness allowed for another person’s closure. We would like you to read it and share to raise awareness on the deaf experience.
Ovais: Could you tell us what happened when the article went viral? What kind of responses and support did you get from the community?
David Hall: When my father died of lymphoma cancer on 1st June, my mother and me were heartbroken. Two days later we contacted the agency that provides sign language interpreters in our local area of Norwich and asked them to find an interpreter for my dad’s funeral. I waited 8 days for them to get back to me! The day before the funeral they called us up. My mother spoke on the phone with them. She hung up the phone and started crying. I kept on asking her ‘’what happened’’? But she couldn’t stop crying. It made me cry too, it was very emotional. Finally she was able to tell me that they could not find an interpreter for the funeral. I could not believe it! I thought: “The funeral is tomorrow!” We were so frustrated that we didn’t know what to do! We decided to approach the local newspaper and told them about the situation we were in. That was the best idea – the article showed up immediately on the Internet, and it went viral very quickly! It spread on Facebook and people started to talk about it. One interpreter from London, a lady called Gemma, contacted us and she travelled the whole way up to Norwich on the night before the funeral. She arrived very late at night and I met with her to brief her for the ceremony.
Ovais: The fact that you had an interpreter for your dad’s funeral, what did it mean to you?
David Hall: Oh, it was wonderful! It was such a relief! It took the weight of my shoulders… I finally could say goodbye to my father with peace in my heart. The fact that the interpreter was there made such a huge difference. The vicar was standing too far away from me for me to be able to lipread what she was saying. It would be impossible for me to be part of the ceremony. Thanks to Gemma being there I could look at her and read the signs. The vicar read out loud about my father’s upbringing and his life story – some of the details I did not know before. It was written by my mother and it was beautiful that the interpreter could sign it for me. I was very grateful, the ceremony felt complete. It really meant a lot to my mother and me, and I am sure it was important for my dad too. After the funeral, I expressed my gratitude to Gemma and I asked for her fee for the service. I was so surprised she did not want to accept the payment, she did not even want me to reimburse her travel fare! She said ‘’I did it voluntary, that’s from the kindness of my heart’’, but I did not want to hear about it, so she told me to give the money to the charity instead. The same day, I transferred £200 to the charity that supports people affected by lymphoma cancer.
Ovais: What would be your message to hearing people who wouldn’t really understand the situation you were in?
David Hall: It is very sad that people do not understand how important it is for a son to attend his father’s funeral. It is so hard for a child to lose their parent, and for a deaf person not to be able to participate in the funeral ceremony would just add to the suffering that they’re already going through. I wish it never to happen again to any family. Deaf people should always be able to have an interpreter for emergency situations. A funeral is so important. It is just once in a lifetime when you can say goodbye to the ones you loved once they have gone.