from David Vincent in Shrewsbury, UK. What we might have done …

May 4. All of us, especially those in complete lockdown, spend quality time wondering what we might have done when we had the chance to do it.

In Britain we had perhaps six to eight weeks when we knew that coronavirus was not something that just happened in far away countries.  We had a week to ten days when it was clear that an imposed lockdown was coming.  What use did we make of this precious time?

Visiting the hairdresser is so obvious and so universal (except for those no longer burdened with a thatch) that it is not worth mentioning.  A friend sent us a cartoon.  A sex worker is leaning through a car window.  ‘I’ll do anything you want for £50.’  A voice from inside the car: ‘Do you cut hair?’

For us the major regret was not attending a family celebration of my wife’s birthday in London.  As it happened this was arranged for March 14, just over a week before the closure.  My wife and I were still considering that we might travel when we received fierce instruction from each of our children.  They addressed us much as we did them in the most irresponsible phase of their adolescence: ‘What you are proposing to do represents an unnecessary threat to your health and wellbeing.  We have a duty of care towards you, and you will do as we say.’ Thus, the tables were turned, perhaps for good.

Since then, the risk register has evolved.  Dying has become one of the activities to get through before the shut-down.  On Sunday we had a grocery delivery, and fell to talking (at a safe distance) to the man who had pushed the trolley up the drive.  He said that he had lately lost his father.  We sympathised with his coronavirus suffering, but he explained that his father had died, much to his relief, just before the outbreak.  He had been in and out of hospital for a year and would have hated to have his treatment sidelined by the pandemic.  His family had been with him during his final hours.  And they had a good funeral (he also explained the difficulty of arranging it in the midst of severe flooding in our area, but that is now a forgotten story).

The last funeral that I attended myself before the crisis was of a cousin.  He too had been undergoing hospital treatment for a year.  He too died in the company of his wife and children.  He too had a great send-off, at which his grandchildren and a university colleague spoke movingly of his life. 

The widespread stories of final hours being spent only in the company of medical staff, of tight restrictions on attendance at funerals, of cancer appointments falling by three quarters, of cancelled treatments for a host of serious conditions, reinforce the tale told by the delivery man.  For those who still have time ahead of us, better of course to stand and take our chance.  But for those for whom the grim reaper was already at the door, better he entered before all this happened.   

From Eileen in Spain – Death during the Lockdown

Before the lockdown Spain has always buried their dead very quickly. The time between death and the funeral is usually 48 hours. This tradition maybe due to the 800 year Moorish occupation or that the temperatures in southern Spain can be very high.

Last week my husband passed away during the night. Within 2 hours of death the doctor had confirmed the situation and the undertaker had taken him with away.

The next morning on getting the death certificate the undertaker informed me that they were going to have to cremate him at 4pm the same day and I could come with 3 people and they would deliver the ashes to my home the next morning.

That was another shock.

However, I found the strength to email with the help of others most of his friends and family including nearly everyone living on our resort. We asked everyone at 4pm to stop say a prayer then raise a glass to my husband Alan.

I prepared a table of remembrance with his photo, candle, slippers, wedding ring, railway magazine called “The Oily Rag” and a Fulham Football souvenir. I found on the internet a list of funeral prayers and appropriate funeral music on Youtube. Then crying my eyes out I held the funeral for half an hour.

I did not want this lockdown to prevent me sending off my husband without a prayer and au revoir.

Since then I have encountered so much love from people I know.

As it is very difficult to obtain sympathy cards in Spain I have received about 50 handmade cards expressing sympathy. People went to so much trouble in this time of isolation, hand painting beautiful flowers, with wonderful calligraphy and verses.

This is truly the time when you really miss human contact.

Death comes close, by John Fielden, Tadcaster, UK

Kirkby Wharfe church

Until this week the daily casualties from the virus did not strike home. Now however we have experienced two deaths.  One was the mother of my son in law who died in hospital in Scotland after a serious operation; the other was the brother of my son’s godmother, who caught Covid 19 (as did his wife) and died later in hospital in Guildford, mourned by many of the staff, as he was a governor of the trust.

My son in law’s experience in arranging a funeral must be common for many.  First of course a church service was impossible, so he hunted around in Scotland for a crematorium that would take family and mourners at the service.  Finally he settled on Perth which allows up to 10 people.  Near me in Yorkshire both York and Leeds councils do not allow any family at all at their crematoria and grieving relatives must go to Halifax.

This afternoon a short half hour service was streamed live from the Perth crematorium and 58 people including us tuned in to watch.  A wonderful clergyman (a former Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland) with a soft Scottish voice led the service, while family members read a psalm and a lesson and my son in law gave a moving tribute to his mother. Recorded music from a choir and a Royal Marines band provided the start and finish of proceedings.  The whole experience was very moving and as close to the real thing as could be done – a triumph for technology – for a change!

Kirkby Wharfe church – interior

Having finished watching the service I strolled in the lovely sunlight along our village green to our 12th century late Norman church a hundred yards away.  Sitting there inside in the cool with sunlight shafting through the stained glass windows was a fitting coda to the afternoon.  For 870 years this lovely church has given comfort to villagers at times of plague, civil war and pestilence.  Now the church authorities or Magisterium have decreed no-one can enter. How lucky I am that, as church treasurer, I have a key that allows me to break this crazy rule.

http://www.stmarystadcaster.co.uk/a-tour-of-st-johns-kirkby-wharfe.html.

from Steph G in London, UK: 2 weddings, a funeral and Passover …

April 9. We’ve just had a week of contrast- 2 weddings and a funeral and Passover- all completely governed by the Covid 19 situation. As far as the weddings go, I just hope everyone can get into their good clothes next year.

The funeral was tragic. A cousin died in Leeds (not Covid related). His 2 sons were self isolating in the South and couldn’t attend. The mourning prayers were held remotely – around 50 people signing on to take part. It was surreal and threw up more questions – do you stand when you would normally? It actually felt a bit voyeuristic watching everybody but in the circumstances this was one way to say goodbye.

Passover, on the other hand was almost as chaotic as normal except in 6 different households at once. At least the washing up was manageable. I wonder how the very orthodox are coming to terms with the constraints that we have now? Similarly, with Easter and Ramadan – perhaps it will change religious observances for ever?

Today, was the first time I heard stats on survival and not the death stats. We become more and more cynical about the news we are being fed- from Boris’ condition to the NHS ability to cope and any exit strategy, or not.