Updated: Feb 7, 2021
I just said goodbye to my Nan for the last time. But instead of saying goodbye to her myself, I had to watch other people do it in my place. The pandemic meant it was too risky to attend.
It feels insincere to attend a funeral virtually. Whilst I doubt anyone would take offence at the idea that, considering the current circumstances, it would be perfectly understandable to avoid being in a social setting in person, it nevertheless feels as if you have forgone a final farewell for selfish reasons. But then you end up asking yourself who are you expecting criticism from? Certainly not the deceased, for they can’t hold much of an opinion on anything anymore. Maybe the family? They all seemed understanding enough. Perhaps it’s just me then, who feels guilt. Losing a loved one is never easy. We all mourn in our own particular way.
And that’s the current state of the world at the moment. I’ve heard stories about people being unable to say goodbye to family when in the hospital, but I’ve also heard stories of funerals with hundreds of people in attendance. And whilst it’s easier for me to sympathise with one case over the other, I also know that neither of them are appropriate. How can I agree that a gathering of hundreds to respect the dead is a dangerous choice, whilst simultaneously regret that I could not be there today in person? I don’t think I would have cared how many were there, if it meant I could be there too.
In any case, I was not. I was at home, watching it on my PC. No one could see me or hear me, had I said anything. I watched my mother and sister walk to the lectern, speak their last words with trembling voices, and was not able to hug either of them. Our united grief was limited to 4 minutes before and after the ceremony, and now that it’s over I’m still in the same place I was before it began. I could not drive away from my table and leave the casket behind. The stream ended abruptly once someone else felt it was appropriate. Saying goodbye to my nan amounted to closing a tab. I could control no aspect of it in absentia. And somehow, I still need to tell myself that this was the better, more responsible decision.
Nothing about COVID-19 is ideal, I understand that. I just wish that, if nothing else, I could have been able to hug my family. Even if I had attended, I wouldn’t have been able to do that, since we’re now part of two different households. The distance between this flat and the crematorium may as well have been the distance between my family and me at the funeral. So perhaps its not as insincere as I thought, seeing as any sincerity is moderated by the law at the moment. Mourning is illegal if the gathering is too big, or too many people want to pay their respects at the same time, as if there will be several openings during the week to say goodbye. So is it the government’s fault that I could not be there? Probably not. I think this would count as an exceptional circumstance. Maybe it’s no one’s fault then. Perhaps I’m just guilty because I know that, had I really wanted to, I could have gone there in spite of all the red flags telling me not to.
As it is, I didn’t, and now I don’t even have anyone here with me to talk about this with. Noone to mourn with. It’s just me watching my family support each other through a screen. Imagine being in a world where mourning starts and ends at the living room. What bitter irony.