If you had told me a year ago that our world would be affected by a great pandemic and we would be confined to our homes except for the most essential work, and then asked me what I might struggle with most, I would have guessed a few things:
- Fear for my children (I am secretly an insanely protective mother, but I try to hide it!);
- The pain of not seeing my grandchild (who I absolutely adore);
- Cabin fever and not being able to do the things that stop me feeling stressed;
- Not being able to see those I love at church face to face;
- Not being able to worship with others, pray together, share the peace, sing together;
- Not having Communion, a very sacred and important act for me,
I would have been wrong. There is one thing, and one thing only that has cut me to the core in terms of pain, and that is conducting funerals under the current circumstances. In particular, seeing people sitting on chairs at the crematorium, two meters away from the next person, crying with no-one to put an arm around them and console them. My heart breaks. I am forbidden, like everyone else, from offering a hug, and that is a dreadful cruelty that had never occurred to me before. It is torture to see someone in pain and not be able to offer acts of comfort. Here is a poem written by Stella about the pain of such a funeral.
My understanding is that most bereaved people have opted for something called ‘direct cremation’, a term I hadn’t heard of before, where their loved one is cremated with no ceremony preceding it. The hope is that after the lockdown is over, we will be able to have memorial services and express all that we want to and need to. I don’t know how that feels; I suspect it is like being in limbo.
I look forward to the day when we can have these memorial services, where people can cry and be comforted with hugs and words spoken softly and squeezes of the hand, where friends and relatives can be present and comfort each other in their grief.
Note: Church of England churches are available to all people for memorial services – those who attend regular services and those who have never attended.