Coronavirus- a family's experience

One of the families we have looked after these past few weeks have written down their experience of their loved one’s funeral and have kindly given us permission to share it here:

One family’s experience of a service prior to cremation during coronavirus lockdown

These are exceptional times. When we arranged for our father’s cremation and service of thanksgiving, we had no idea of the measures that correctly would be introduced by government to contain the spread of coronavirus.

Before the introduction of social isolation, an early decision was taken in consultation with the funeral director and church minister to postpone the service of thanksgiving to a later date rather than risk bringing people together of all ages and from different parts of the country.

As an immediate family who were due to attend the service of committal at the crematorium, we then had to work out what to do, given we were not meant to travel because of the lockdown and attendance at the crematorium was being restricted to four people.

After consultation with the funeral director and minister, we agreed that no one would attend; even if four were there, the seating would be spread out in the vast crematorium chapel. We decided to mark the occasion remotely instead.

The funeral director made the usual arrangements for the cremation with dignity and the minister conducted the service in our absence. Piped music played the processional and recessional music that had been chosen as an organist could not attend.

In a range of settings, a husband, father, grandfather and friend was remembered at the time of his cremation as we followed the order of service for his committal and sang the hymns wherever we were in a very personal and relevant way. Although he loved company, we were confident that he would understand how we had needed to adapt the arrangements and give him a unique farewell.

• His wife remained at home, following the service, playing the piano and singing the hymns, then looked through photo albums full of happy memories.

• As he was always at the door to wave visitors off, the elder daughter who lived locally cycled close to his home to  watch the hearse pass by and waved farewell on our behalf. Following the service she then stood by the gate to a meadow at the family farm.

• The middle daughter sat on a picnic bench that he enjoyed on the hill outside her home, following the service then drinking coffee and eating Norfolk shortcakes she had made especially

• The youngest daughter planted peas in the garden that were the variety he had grown, then followed the service in a room with family photos over five generations

• A grandson went out on his local training run on his bicycle, remembering how his grandfather used to enjoy watching him in his time trials and paused to watch lambs in a field knowing his grandfather would have enjoyed that countryside

• Working from home, the other grandsons paused to remember their grandfather as the service began

• Friends and family paused and reflected and lit candles at the time of the service

We know that as a friend to everyone, our father would not have wanted to put anyone in any danger. He would understand the exceptional circumstances that meant that we marked his cremation in special but different ways. We feel we did the right thing and our mother knows that our father is at peace after a good, long, happy life. We now look forward to sharing in a Service of Thanksgiving when the emergency is over.

Although we had to adapt to circumstances, our experience has also highlighted the importance of people making their wishes upon death known to guide families in carrying these out in difficult times.