There's no problem cheese can't solve

By Mike Pomranz
Updated August 07, 2018
Credit: Photo by Andia via Getty Images

Attending your spouse’s funeral is an upsetting experience. But it could be worse, you think. You could be dead too. And since your dead, the government could cut off your pension. But then it turns out you’re actually alive. And since you have no incoming pension money, you can’t afford anything to eat. So you’re forced to eat leftover cheese from your own husband’s funeral to survive… for a month. That’s definitely a worst case scenario—and unbelievably, it’s exactly what happened to a 76-year-old woman in England.

This past April, Diane Geraghty lost her husband of 25 years, Joseph Michael Geraghty, who died from pulmonary complications, according to her hometown paper, the Lowestoft Journal. As if things weren’t bad enough, thanks to an “administrative error” at the UK’s Department for Work and Pension, not only was her husband marked as deceased, but she was too. Almost immediately, her approximately $215 per week pension stopped coming, leaving her without any spending money.

Though she says she reached out to her bank, she decided she didn’t want to burden her family by asking for help. “It’s the way I was brought up; to be independent and look after myself,” she told the Journal. “I didn’t want to go banging on people’s doors; it would have felt like begging.”

Instead, she resorted to eating what she had around the house, which, morbidly enough, was food from when her husband passed away. “I lived off leftover cheese from my husband’s funeral—I just had a couple of slices each day,” she said. “I know it seems mad but I wasn’t thinking straight at the time.”

As she told the paper, the lack of adequate sustenance began a downward spiral effect. “I was confused and upset, I didn’t want to go outside because I was all over the place and people would have thought I was drunk. I was frightened to use the phone because I didn’t have any money to pay the phone bill,” she said. “I was so weak I thought I was going to die.” Along the way, the retiree lost nearly 30 pounds.

Thankfully, about a month later, a passerby noticed Geraghty looking distraught in her front yard. The stranger asked her what was wrong and, thankfully, the 76-year-old gave him the whole story. He offered to contact the pension department to help her out, but in the short-term, he made sure she got to a local food bank. “The people at the foodbank were so nice—that first slice of bread and butter was heaven,” she told the Journal. “They brought me a cheese and tomato sandwich and a big mug of tea.” It was a lifesaving event, though she probably could have done without more cheese.

And the story has an even happier ending: The Department for Work and Pensions admitted its mistake, and not only are her weekly payments arriving again, but she was also given all the back payments that were owed to her.