WHEN Sharon Fottrell and her long-term love David married at St Christopher's Hospice, they knew their time together would soon come to an end.
The pair were making their 24-year relationship official as David Fottrell, 48, was in the final stages of the cancer he had battled for two years.
The popular car mechanic died six weeks later, on Christmas Eve, and some 100 mourners turned out to his funeral to say goodbye.
But Mrs Fottrell's trauma deepened last week when she collected her beloved husband's ashes from Beckenham Crematorium.
Arriving back at the home they shared in Linton Glade, Selsdon, she opened the cremation certificate to find it was not her husband's.
Instead, it bore the name of a 99-year-old woman.
Mrs Fottrell, 45, said: "I felt in a way when I opened it that it was rubbing salt in the wounds – she lived for 99 years; my husband was only 48 when he died."
When she pointed out the error to the crematorium, she was saddened to be told to "pop back and collect the right one".
"Collecting a loved one's remains is not the same as 'popping to the shops'," she said.
The crematorium has since apologised to Mrs Fottrell for the administrative error, but the widow said the pain is not easily shaken off.
"I just wish it had not happened," she said. "It is not the sort of thing you can rectify; it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
"They say they offer dignified caring for the dead – that is all very well, but there are those that are not dead that need a bit of thought."
A spokesman for Beckenham Crematorium told the Advertiser it was "deeply sorry" for the distress the error had caused.
Stuart Cox, communications manager at Dignity Plc, added: "We take this incident very seriously and the crematorium manager has apologised.
"Our administration staff have been fully retrained and we will be introducing a change of procedures to ensure that this incident is not repeated."
Mrs Fottrell plans to take half of her husband's ashes to his family in Dublin, where he was born, and half to one of the keen angler's favourite spots in Slaugham, West Sussex.
"We moved in together in 1989 and our anniversary was this week," she added. "We did not have kids; we had each other."