Friends and family of Bernie Stiffowitz have been describing their shock today after the popular and much-loved ‘family man’ from Southend WOKE UP at his own funeral this morning.
Doctors had originally believed that 81-year-old Bernie passed away peacefully in front of Coronation Street on Monday evening. His wife Barbara told our Chief Reporter that the whole experience had left everyone feeling a little shaken.
She said: ‘As the end credits of Coronation Street were rolling, I tried nudging Bernie to see if he wanted a cup of tea, but he didn’t reply and he looked like he was in a deep sleep. He was still in the same position on the sofa with his mouth wide open at 11.30pm, and so we just assumed that he was dead.’
‘We called an ambulance and our local synagogue to make the arrangements, and the lavoyah (a Jewish funeral) was scheduled for early on Tuesday morning.’
‘As the coffin was rolled into the chapel on Stock Road in Southend, we could hear a knocking noise from inside the coffin and all of a sudden it burst open and everyone was screaming. Bernie just sat bolt upright and started complaining about wearing a suit on a Tuesday morning.’
‘He seemed upset that nobody had woken him for breakfast, and so we all went home still a little shaken up.’
Dr Henry Tagg is the Mortuary Director at Southend University Hospital, and he confirmed that lessons will be learned from this incident.
He added: ‘One of the biggest challenges with Jewish bereavements is that everything has to happen within 24 hours – this means that occasionally there isn’t enough time to complete all of the relevant checks and paperwork.’
‘Unfortunately on this occasion this meant that we didn’t have adequate staffing to verify that the deceased was actually deceased. On the whole, we are proud of our record in this area – in 2015 our living burial rate was under 0.5%, which was one of the lowest in Essex.’