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Facing a new funeral

Updated: Sep 30, 2020

Somebody who attended a funeral recently has kindly taken the time to write about her experience.

I have been to many funerals over the years - old people, middle-aged people and children. Recently I was invited to attend my first funeral since lockdown. Firstly, being invited to attend a funeral is a new phenomena. In ‘normal times’ you’d find out about a funeral and make the decision to attend. Nowadays you need to wait to be invited.

The funeral I was invited to had a limit of 30 people and this was a well-respected local person so, to be honest, I wasn’t really expecting an invitation. This meant that I was incredibly touched to be included on ‘the guest list’.

The invitation was just for me, so I would be attending alone. I’ve been to a few funerals by myself, so wasn’t unduly worried. I was tempted to message a few other friends, to see if they were going. But, I decided against this, as they might not have been on ‘the list’ and I didn’t want to cause any sort of ill-feeling. As it turned out, there were a couple of people I knew, so I was able to chat outside the chapel, while remaining at a safe distance.

It did occur to me though that, for many people, this strange period might mean attending a funeral alone for the first time. The limit on numbers means that you can’t bring a friend or relative with you as support. If they aren’t on the guest list, they aren’t coming in. Although to be fair, it didn’t seem like that at the funeral – there wasn’t somebody on the door turning people away…

I always feel nervous before a funeral and I suspect most people do. This time, though, I noticed myself feeling a little more anxious and I think this was because I suspected that, after 30 odd years of attending funerals, this would feel a little different. For a start I’d have to wear a mask and there also wouldn’t be any singing. Would it all feel a bit intimidating?

We all waited patiently outside the chapel at a distance. This in itself felt odd at a funeral, when you feel you should be giving the family members a hug or at least a handshake.

We did indeed need to wear a mask and this is where my friend’s family had decided to personalise this part of the service. We all had our obligatory masks on us, but we were given the option of wearing a clear visor, which had been customised with some stickers to reflect my friend. That was a nice touch and it also meant that we could see the faces of the people at the service.

I’d seen photos of chapels with chairs removed or crosses on seats but the chapel looked the same as usual. There were, however, lots of small signs asking people to sit two metres apart (if they weren’t in the same bubble) and everyone took responsibility to abide by this rule.

The service was beautiful and there were hymns, because my friend had requested that they were. The recordings were of the hymns being sung and we could follow the words in the order of service – but we couldn’t sing.

My friend had close relatives who live overseas and couldn’t attend due to the current travel restrictions. Thankfully, the crematorium has the facility for services to be relayed live online, so they were able to ‘join in’ and the celebrant leading the service took the time to name and welcome them, which was a lovely touch. There were also videos of relatives who were unable to attend giving readings and this felt very special.

Having watched a couple of funerals online since lockdown, I can say that this is a really wonderful idea and a great benefit to not only people who can’t attend, because of the current restrictions on numbers or the fact that they are overseas, but it’s also helpful to elderly, vulnerable or shielding people, enabling them to feel part of proceedings.

After the service we filed out as usual and there was a distinct lack of hugs – again that was hard. But, the sun was shining and it didn’t really feel much different from a service in ‘normal’ times, apart from the lack of people and the social distancing.

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