A moving post about something that none of us likes to think about – I think perhaps it’s time to think about it.
The Memory Lives Forever by The Thanatologist
I have been a civil funeral celebrant for five years, and I love my job. ‘Isn’t it depressing?’ people ask, and I reply that it isn’t; because most of the time I’m not talking about death, but about love, loyalty and family, friendships, fun and everything that makes life worth living. Most funeral services have some laughter amongst the tears, as the mourners remember the good times they shared.
And then came Covid-19.
At first I thought funerals might be banned altogether, with direct cremation or burial. Instead they are now continuing in circumstances that make it impossible for me and everyone else working in the funeral industry to provide the service that we’d like to give.
The first thing to go was face-to-face meetings with families; now I have to conduct them over the phone or via Zoom, and it’s much harder to get the information I need and to build a rapport with my clients.
A maximum of ten mourners – who would you choose from your family? And unless your loved one has tested negative for Covid-19, they will be treated as if they had it. No chance to view them at the funeral home, and they will not be dressed in the clothes you take in, they will be laid on top of the body bag. No limousines, everyone arrives in their own car; no bearers, the coffin is trundled in on a bier.
You may think this doesn’t matter much, but to some families it feels as if they are not giving their beloved relative the send-off that they wanted. And – a very difficult point for some people – the curtains must close at the end of the service, no chance to touch and kiss the coffin for a final goodbye.
And of course, with no pubs or restaurants there is no ‘wake’ – usually a chance to chat to old friends or neighbours, to recall stories of the deceased and to celebrate their life.
Does this matter? Aren’t we a bit fixated with a Victorian style of funeral, with limousines, flowers and expensive trappings that people are too distressed to challenge? Yes, perhaps, and I have long advocated that there should be more transparency and that families should be able to choose a different sort of service. But there’s no choice here.
I’ve conducted hundreds of funerals, and I thought I was fairly good at detaching myself from the emotions of those I am representing. But to see someone sobbing throughout a service, and their brother or sister unable to reach out and comfort them; or to know that the last time a thirteen-year old boy saw his mum was when she was carried out of the house by paramedics; these are images that will stay with me for as long as I go on working.
Lockdown will end eventually, we will be able to gather together and hold memorials and celebrations, but the day of the funeral is gone and can’t be repeated.
These people didn’t all die from Covid-19, they didn’t all die with it; but their families are going to live with this memory for ever.
The Thanatologist became a celebrant to escape a job in ‘the City’. It’s been a rewarding career emotionally, although not financially. It enables her to spend more time with her cats, which they don’t appreciate, and to garden, sew and volunteer for charity. She knows she is lucky to be able to go on working through lockdown.
If you would like to write your own Guest Blog, about your Life under Lockdown, I’d love to hear from you! Click here to see what you need to do. It’s more important than ever that we hear each other. And if you’re reading this, and thinking ‘she doesn’t mean me‘ – you’d be wrong. Get writing!!
Stay safe. Stay sane. It’s not forever. We can do this.
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