Funerals and Lockdowns

By Sandra Moon

Two weeks ago, with state border closures in place and Local Government Area (LGA) lockdowns due to COVID-19, my mother Eleanor took my father Barry into the Emergency Department not knowing he would never come home again.

While it had been a long health battle for Dad, the swiftness of the end took us all by surprise and we’d thought there was much more life and fight in him. But it was not meant to be.

He was admitted to the local public hospital two weeks ago and placed into palliative care, just days before his eightieth birthday. We were advised the hospital only allowed one designated visitor for the whole stay. Not one visitor per day but for the whole time he was in hospital which seemed unfair on all of us, cruel even considering his condition.

My mother would have to carry the physical and emotional load of her dying spouse and Dad and his children may never get to see each other alive again.

I rang the Director of Nursing crying, asking them to reconsider due to him being in palliative care. She took my concerns to a meeting and thankfully they were able to allow strictly two visitors in at a time. Between my mother and my sister, we took on a twenty-four-hour bedside vigil tending, caring and advocating for Dad for the next six days. 

Luckily for us we all in in the same LGA. But not so my brother who is in lockdown in a hotspot in Sydney. He wanted to come up but logistically it meant even if he could get a travel exemption from NSW Health, he had to isolate upon arrival here for 14 days. And that would have to occur with a family member.

The obvious choice was my sister and I but then we wouldn’t be allowed into the hospital as we would have been in contact with someone from a hotspot. Unfortunately, it all seemed risky and far too slow. The best we could do for him and for Dad was to get them on the phone, as the reception in the hospital didn’t work well enough for facetime.

And so, it was Mum, myself and a few close relatives only who spent Dad’s last days with him.

My darling father, Barry Anthony Moon died on Sunday, August 8.

Barry left behind his beloved wife Eleanor and cherished children Carolyn, Chris and Sandra.
Barry left behind his beloved wife Eleanor and cherished children Carolyn, Chris and Sandra.

We knew how we wanted the funeral to play out and got straight to it. But organising a funeral during a pandemic is a peculiar thing. Of course, there are extra considerations such as mandatory masks, social distancing and the chapel’s requirements that attendees could only be from our LGA.

There was also the fact that regional areas are not allowed more than five visitors to a household meaning a wake couldn’t be held at Mum and Dad’s place.

Despite all those things, the hardest part was the absence of those we always imagine will attend such events. My brother was not the only relative in a lockdown predicament. Dad’s eldest grandchild is in Brisbane and his second eldest grandchild is in Sydney along with all of his siblings.

And there were friends who missed out too as the Byron, Ballina, Lismore LGAs went into lockdown as we were planning the funeral. My best friend, my sister’s husband and Mum and Dad’s best friends could not attend as they either lived in those LGAs or had travelled there.

Despite the pain of the absences, especially that of my brother, we had to carry on. For those who could attend we held Dad’s service yesterday. We gathered in a gorgeous chapel, held a service with beautiful accompanying violin and shared stories afterwards holding and supporting each other in our shared grief.

But not so for those forced to stay away behind closed state borders and locked in by the metropolitan and regional shutdowns. The next best thing we could offer them was to watch the live stream on the funeral director’s Facebook page.

And as we work through the pain of each new day without my father, technology also provides support to those of us locally and to the geographically dispersed as we send and receive messages of love and support and remember him. 

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