No One Knew Body in Coffin Wasn't Grandma— Except Little Kids

Adults thought Val-Jean McDonald's body looked odd but didn't say anything
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 22, 2016 3:37 PM CDT
No One Knew Body in Coffin Wasn't Grandma— Except Little Kids
She did look a little different.   (Shutterstock)

With eight sons, more than 20 grandkids, and nearly two dozen great- and great-great-grandchildren, it wasn't surprising there were lots of attendees at Val-Jean McDonald's funeral after her death in December at the age of 81, the New York Times reports. What was surprising: Not a single adult realized the body in the open casket wasn't McDonald's. "Maybe it's the cancer," Errol McDonald, one of her sons, remembers thinking during the service in Harlem. Others attributed it to everything from the embalming process to deterioration during her hospital stay. But there was one person who did spot something amiss: Errol's 10-year-old son. "Daddy, that's not Grandma," Errol recalls his son telling him, though he told the boy at the time that people appeared different after they died; WABC notes that a 6-year-old granddaughter said the same thing and was similarly corrected.

Family members attended the matriarch's cremation the next day. But now state officials are investigating a Bronx funeral home—because those children were correct. "Your mother is still here," another son says a manager at McCall's Bronxwood Funeral Home told him nearly a week after his mother's supposed cremation. So far the only clue as to how this happened is that photos of McDonald and the other woman show they were about the same age and size and shared a similar complexion. A McCall's rep tells the Times: "We have spoken to the families affected and acknowledged our deepest sorrows." Meanwhile, McDonald's sons say other people are now all saying, "I knew it!"—but that they, unlike the kids, were afraid to say anything. (It's not the first time something like this has happened.)

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