Information by Anne Bréchet and Angela Bird
WHAT TO DO WHEN...
Unfortunately, even when you are
on holiday, the worst can happen.
The second half of this page
contains useful information,
WHEN THE WORST HAPPENS
Call the Fire Brigade (dial 18; or 112 from a mobile phone and ask for “les pompiers”) they are the equivalent to the British ambulance service. They will practise first aid until a doctor arrives to certify death.
If you do not speak good French, it is a good idea to find someone who does to come round as soon as possible and interpret for you, as there are a lot of formalities to go through and decisions to be made.
Once death has been certified ask the doctor or someone around to call the undertaker. (Almost every little town has a “pompe-funèbres”, as undertakers are called in French.)
In fact if the death is of a foreigner (i.e. not French) the emergency team will also call the Gendarmerie, who will send one or two gendarmes along; somebody will also inform the local Mayor, who has to come along to see you in the case of the death of a foreigner in their commune before the body can be removed.
You should call your insurance company as soon as possible. If you have repatriation insurance, the company will tell you how to proceed. But you may still find the following useful, as everything happens very quickly, and you will want to feel that you have some control over events.
The undertaker will arrive to take the body away.
But first he will ask you:
v if you wish for burial, cremation or repatriation for the deceased.
If you have decided on repatriation, make sure that you have the agreement of your insurance company first as it is an expensive process involving a lead-lined coffin and probably a special flight; which they may be unwilling to pay for.
v to choose a coffin.
v whether you wish for a religious service.
v whether there are any particular clothes you would like the deceased to be dressed in (in which case you have to sort them out there and then and hand them to the undertaker).
v whether you wish the body to be placed in an open coffin, for you and others to pay your respects.
This is common practice in the Vendée; the body is either returned to the house in the open coffin or displayed at the funeral parlour, so that friends and neighbours can say goodbye before the funeral. If you prefer for the body not to be on view, it is no problem; you just inform the undertaker of your wishes (if you do decide on viewings, but are in holiday rental premises, you will of course have to opt for the funeral-parlour viewing).
Undertakers usually convey the coffin in a special, smartly-painted van, rather than the glass-sided vehicles that are seen in the UK. The mourners are expected to use their own transport rather than to book special funeral cars.
The death has to be notified at the local Mairie (town hall). Their staff will issue the death certificate within a day or two, and any number of copies, free of charge. Unlike the UK, the cause of death is not stated on the death certificate in France.
The undertaker will discuss with you later when it is convenient to hold the funeral and/or cremation.
If you wish to have a non-religious funeral without cremation (i.e. with burial or repatriation), the undertaker will probably allow you to use his premises; if you have opted for cremation, the undertaker will make a booking for you.
In both cases you will need to arrange everything about the “service” yourself though, from introduction onwards, so start to think about music (take CDs to be played through the sound system), and readings (get people lined up to do them).
Also think about ordering flowers.
If you wish to have an Anglican Service in English you should contact Brian Davies 02 51 62 96 32, of the Congregations of All-Saints, Vendée.
If you wish for a French Catholic service, the undertaker will put you in touch with the local priest to help and advise you.
is becoming more common in France now, and the Vendée is no exception. There
is a smart, ultra-modern crematorium at Olonne-sur-Mer (near Les
Sables-d’Olonne), very hushed and close-carpeted. If you are in a far-flung corner of the
Vendée, the undertaker may suggest a different crematorium closer to hand in
a neighbouring county, such as Nantes or Niort.
It is possible to have the deceased cremated and then for the undertaker to collect the ashes – sometimes on the same day – and to place them in an urn or a casket ready for you to pick up and either scatter or take home, as required.
If you wish to take the ashes back to the UK you have to obtain permission from the Préfecture, and obtain the necessary documents from them. The Préfecture for the Vendée is at 29 rue Delille, 85000 La Roche-sur Yon (tel: 02 51 36 70 85).
You should notify the ferry company or the airline that you will be carrying an urn with you.
On your return to the UK a local funeral director can arrange burial or scattering, but he will need a copy of the document from the Préfecture before being able to proceed.
HOW TO PAY
French undertaker will issue a bill about a month after the funeral, this
will be inclusive of the crematorium fees.
He will expect cash or a French cheque as he may not have card
facilities; alternatively you can arrange to transfer the amount direct to
his bank account.
HOSPITALISATION IN THE VENDEE, by Anne Bréchet
Here is an excellent page from the AngloInfo website that details all the official formalities.