I wrote this poem after we lost my husband's Aunt to COVID-19 on March 30th 2020. I hope it might resonate with other people going through the same difficulties at this time.
Auntie was a well respected member of the small but close-knit Jamaican community in Dudley. She and her husband came to the UK in the Windrush era and she had worked in Healthcare most of her life where she was loved by everyone.
When she passed I was saddened that we would not be able to give her a proper Jamaican "send-off", which prompted me to write this poem.
Normally there would be a wake lasting for nine nights where family, friends and neighbours come to the family home, stay up all night to keep the family company and pay their respects to the deceased. Most of the Black community in Dudley attend the funerals of the elders, then gather at the graveside and sing hymns while the men of the family fill in the grave themselves.
These traditions help to give a sense of predictability to the grieving process and show respect for those who have passed. Sadly they have not been possible during the Coronavirus pandemic and we should be aware that many families, of every culture, may struggle to come to terms with their losses when this period
These are the strangest deaths…
when your loved ones
could not comfort you
in your final hours
There will be no gathering
of family and friends
to talk deep into the night
of your care, your faith,
your life well lived
and your enduring love
No extra chairs will be set out in church
for the community that lost you
far too soon
We cannot give each other comfort,
in isolation times
A consoling hug, shared tears,
they are not ours
No family will fly in to grieve with us
only distant calls
These are the strangest deaths …
When your passing is a statistic
on the nightly news
But we will remember you
a candle in the window
and a single red rose.