One of the residents in our street died at home yesterday. We, not having not been here that long, and as she had been frail and unwell, didn’t really know her. But someone dying in your immediate community has an impact, and of course others here would have known her much better.
It set us thinking about how deaths happen, and how unacknowledged they often are at the time. Life barely skips a beat, such is our avoidance of this. Of course with Covid many who normally would have attended the funeral won’t be able to do that either, and you can’t pop round and sit with the bereaved family. Of course a card and gift of cake or soup is always an option.
We wondered what we could do to acknowledge the reality of this. We could put a note around all the neighbours suggesting we all come out with a candle at 6pm? That could be good, but then would we need to ask permission of the family? Would people do it? It feels uncertain and difficult to organise.
So we have printed the name of the person who died, Grace, and lit a candle in our window for her. It feels good to have done something. Hopefully if her family see it they will take some solace from this gesture. Perhaps others in the street will follow suit, giving a sense of solidarity (one already has). Who knows, this might become something this street does in the future, so creating a new ritual to acknowledge death and support the bereaved.
New things are happening during Covid, for example for the hearse to come to the house or along a route and for people to line the street to pay their respects, to nod the head, or a round of applause.
When a young man died last year the friends and neighbours decorated the path outside the house and the terrace in front with flowers in jars – a beautiful gesture.
In the old days it was common for people to draw their curtains when a neighbour died. This doesn’t seem to have the right energy now as we are all feeling so separated anyway. But maybe these times will give rise to a new way of acknowledging a death in the community and alleviate the sense of isolation of the bereaved.
Is something happening in your local community to acknowledge deaths during lockdown? Or something more longstanding not as a result of lockdown which others could take on? Please share.