The saddest funeral of all, where hugs are banned
Each day this month, we will publish Tales of 2020, the stories of ordinary Queenslanders enduring an extraordinary year. Today, Brisbane grandmother Christine Oldham shares the unthinkable pain of farewelling a loved one during COVID restrictions.
Photo: Diego Lozano-Wu
Today I attended a funeral. I read the eulogy. The eulogy for a young man who took his own life four days before his birthday.
He left a partner and a son, both here today. Sadly, his parents and his brother are not, although their sorrow runs deep, and their grief is overwhelming.
I read the eulogy, written by his mother, my cousin. Pat and her husband live interstate but their son Gary decided to spread his wings and move to Brisbane in 2012.
No one is blaming Covid-19 for his death. He had his own personal demons that he tried so hard to overcome, sadly it all got too hard and he chose the only way out he could see to alleviate his enormous suffering.
Because of Covid-19 Pat and Tom were not able to leave Melbourne to come to their son’s funeral. They attended via live streaming. Such a foreign concept not so long ago. It seems everything in our world has been turned upside down by Coronavirus. Is this our new normal? What is normal?
I don’t think I know anymore.
I cannot begin to imagine the pain this family is going through. We, at the funeral, were unable to touch, hug or even sit together, all of us missing this simple act of humanness, particularly at this time of sorrow.
It was four months ago, following the birth of my granddaughter and the height of this nasty, stealth like virus that it hit me; the power of a hug and how much I had taken this simple gesture of love for granted.
Looking back today it seems selfish to feel so frustrated that I couldn’t hug my new granddaughter nor my daughter, selfish that I couldn’t be at the birth of Little Miss Piper June, couldn’t visit the hospital laden with pink balloons, flowers, and bucket loads of granny love.
We had a plan, I was to be at the birth of Victoria’s baby, visit regularly whilst they were in hospital and be there once they were discharged home. None of this happened.
My granddaughter arrived safely, and my daughter came home from hospital with her beautiful baby and her husband by her side.
Pat and Tom will never see their son again, he has not made it home yet. He will though, when Covid-19 is over and his ashes are lovingly delivered to Melbourne into the care of his parents.
Gary and his brother Damien were loved by them the moment they were chosen to be his parents by adoption. This new family moved from England to Melbourne when the boys were 3 and 5 years old.
From the minute they stepped off the plane onto Australian soil they immediately became Aussie kids. The beach on the Mornington Peninsula was their first stop after exiting the plane and within a very short time they were ripping off their shoes, discarding their clothes and with their skinny little legs and white English bodies, running along the beach in the sunshine. I don’t think those shoes were ever put back on the boys’ feet.
My cousin didn’t get to hug her boy again, she didn’t get to tell him how much she loved him, nor did she get to tell him how they loved having him in their life and how much joy he and his brother brought to their little family.
I hug my daughter every time I see her, I smother my granddaughter with kisses and get rewarded with the most brilliant smiles, smiles that melt my heart.
Even though we are still in the grips of Covid 19 we are still hugging, perhaps now though, not as publicly as we used to. For now.
This article was first published in Stories from the Heart, an e-book edited by Dr Johanna Skinner and editor Jane Connolly, and is republished with their permission.