Taking a funeral - during the Coronavirus outbreak
Alex Drew took her dad’s funeral on 25 March, just two days after the Government announced strict new restrictions to minimise the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. She shares how her family adapted to provide a meaningful service
The Government announcement meant a lot of change to our original plans, which had already been evolving with every news update in the two weeks before. The biggest challenge was actually getting our heads around the fact that almost everything we had planned to do, would not now happen. We would not be welcoming our 100 plus friends and family to physically join us, and we would not have a wake, not even a small one.
We reshaped the plan in a way that still allowed people to ‘join us’ in some way, so that together we could to remember, give thanks and say goodbye to dad (pictured). Of course it wasn’t the same, but we made the best of it.
Technology played a huge part in this. Our local crematorium is fitted with live streaming and recording possibilities and we worked with our funeral director to access these.
To those a little less confident with technology, we sent a ‘one click’ link by email later that day so they could still ‘come to the funeral’ then.
We encouraged people to light candles and dress smartly – to prepare themselves in a familiar way for this special occasion.
We used Facebook to let people know what was happening and how they could get a link to the live stream, and we also made a lot of phone calls and sent text messages out so that people would know to stay home and join us via the live link. It was a very busy 24 hours!
But technology isn’t everything and we know of some friends who chose a walk along the beach with their own memories and prayers at the time of the funeral. We also sent the script of the service as well as the order of service to a few who asked for them.
We thought that 7 people trying to fill the room with singing unfamiliar songs could have been awkward, and so rather than having a pianist play the songs we asked for sung versions to be played instead.
On the day, it was a quiet event, just myself and 6 members of our family, taking care to socially distance from those we don’t share a household with – no hugs and kisses allowed, but still plenty of emotion shared!
During the welcome, I acknowledged the unusual situation and peoples’ sadness at not being physically present, as well as our own at not having them there.
It was a bit strange just talking to a congregation of 6 and the camera at the back of the room. But throughout the service I included those at home; making ‘eye contact’, inviting them to stand and sing etc with us.
At the end of the service, in lieu of a wake, I invited everyone to take a moment that evening to raise a toast to my dad whilst pondering their own memories of him and playing his chosen song.
The response I had afterwards was phenomenal; to our relief people did actually join us via the link – they joined in with the singing, stood up and sat down when I asked them to and found a way to mourn their loss in this unexpected new way.
In the evening we were even inundated with people sending us selfies of their raised glasses to dad, to celebrate a life that was.
With so much uncertainty about the coming months, we decided not to attempt to ‘re-gather’ everyone physically later in the year. It’s been a difficult time and we felt that we needed to enable people (including ourselves) to move forwards. However, as a family we plan go for a nice lunch when we can scatter dad’s ashes, and we’ll be putting a generous kitty behind the bar for dad’s friends once they can all gather at the pub again!
In the end, the funeral was the best it could have been under these extraordinary circumstances. We managed to have a meaningful service, and even a bit of a ‘send off’ for dad. Now our mourning can truly begin.
Alex Drew is the executive assistant at webnet (West of England Baptists) and Seventy-two. She's also the Ministry Team Leader for Seniors at Clevedon Baptist Church
She is pictured here with her dad, Peter Farmer.
Flower image | Mayron Oliveira | Unsplash