DERRY — Chris Niland lived in Derry for 23 years. In April, he lost his home to foreclosure and moved just across the town line to Hampstead.
On Dec. 10, his only son, 18-year-old Nicholas, died from injuries sustained in a car crash.
“It’s just been absolutely tragic,” Niland said.
Last week, things got even worse.
Niland wanted to bury his son, who spent most of his young life in Derry, in Forest Hills Cemetery.
He was told he couldn’t.
“They told me I couldn’t bury my son here, because I don’t live here anymore,” he said.
At an emergency meeting late Wednesday afternoon, Dec. 18, the Town Council made an exception. In a 6-0 vote, councilors — acting as cemetery trustees — voted to grant an exception to the policy which bars out-of-towners from purchasing cemetery plots.
The vote brought some small comfort to Niland, who said his son’s body has been in a coroner’s office in Boston for nine days at that point.
“From Head Start to middle school to Pinkerton, he grew up in this town,” Niland said. “This is where he’d be comfortable. This is his hometown and that’s where he needs to go.”
Nicholas’s half-brother — Leland Cole, 28, of Lynn, Mass. — died at the scene of the car accident in Salisbury, Mass. on Dec. 8.
Nicholas, a former Pinkerton student, was airlifted to Beth Israel Hospital in Boston. His injuries were severe and he was taken off life support two days later.
Burial plots are exclusively available to Derry residents, but the policy does allow the cemetery trustees to make exceptions.
Niland said he was stunned that he wouldn’t be allowed to bury his son in Derry.
“I have enough grief on my hands,” he said before the emergency meeting. “I couldn’t believe they were treating me like this. I’m not interested in what the rules are.”