The phone call changed everything for me. “Sorry to hear she died.” We talked for a few minutes more before saying goodbye. Immediately I checked the local funeral home obituaries. Yes, there was her picture. But what does one do in this COVID-19 era? What is the risk? Would I, could I go?
I began to think about how all of this would happen: masks, distancing, waving, throwing kisses or demonstrating hugs and . . . standing alone. I decided that I could do any of that or all of it. But, there was something else to consider. I hadn’t been out of the house much since March lockdown, and this was June. I hadn’t driven, and I wasn’t even sure what health rules had changed since the last time I’d heard the news.
At the appointed time, I drove to the cemetery. I walked by some people that ordinarily I would have moved directly to them to offer a hug. But that was not to be. My worries faded as I made my way along the public road past familiar tombstones. As I grew close to the open grave, I had the opportunity to offer condolences to the immediate family through distancing and proceeded to space six feet from anybody.
This was the new normal, and I had found my way into it with a certain amount of ease. I didn’t feel alone or lonely, even though I stood by myself. Within view were my family plots, and around me were known names written across tombstones. The minister’s clear voice comforted me with familiar scripture passages introducing a message. Several family members spoke, telling the rest of us about holidays on the farm and favourite meals. At the appropriate time, the minister, along with the funeral director, offered the committal. The clergy closed the service with the blessing. It was the familiar that led me through step by step with ease.
Everyone stood quite. A man walked to the gravesite and put a small speaker on the casket and a fresh lyrical country tune filled the air. It seemed without further words, we sensed oneness with each other. When it finished people continued to distance while talking and some walked back to their cars. More than me had managed the new normal. Sometimes, it takes a decision to do it.