John Dolan: We need a day of remembrance in honour of all the people we have lost in pandemic

Now that the lockdown is slowly starting to lift, I believe it is time we focused our efforts on holding some form of memorial service to honour all the dead since early March, so says John Dolan in his weekly column
John Dolan: We need a day of remembrance in honour of all the people we have lost in pandemic

T"he State, along with churches of all denominations and none, and other groups such as our heroic health workers, must set aside a Day of Remembrance — a Sunday would be a natural day — when we can take time out to fittingly honour our dead."

THERE have been three types of people in this lockdown.

The first type are those who have spent the time profitably or who have found being confined to barracks in isolation has benefited them in some way.

Perhaps these people will never return to the grind of a daily commute and the office environment, maybe they have lost a stone, learned a language, or given up drink — and one woman I know this week revealed she had decided to move in with her boyfriend permanently after the lockdown prematurely forced their relationship onto the next level. Has all the makings of a romcom, doesn’t it?!

This cohort will look back on the Covid-19 spring and summer with rose-tinted spectacles, and good luck to them, says I.

The second type of lockdown person is in my category: We’ve done what we had to do, there have been ups and downs, it’s been far from ideal, but we’ve muddled through.

This cohort often cling to a stoic saying: “As long as you and your loved ones have your health...”

The third type, alas, cannot say that.

The third type of people in lockdown have suffered appallingly; they have lost a loved one — whether to the coronavirus or to another ailment — often been unable to hold that person’s hand in their final moments, and seen what should have been a large community funeral reduced to a tiny cabal of close family.

These people have witnessed the horror and cruelty of the pandemic at close quarters, and had to deal with their grief behind closed doors.

It’s unnatural, anathema to our way of living and dying.

What must make it harder for those mourning and locked down is to hear types one and two bemoaning the need for a haircut, or wishing wistfully for a pint of stout — or perhaps worst of all, crowing about their ability to now be able to talk Spanish.

When a loved one dies, the grief is all-encompassing at the best of times. And Covid-19, for those grieving, has been the very worst of times.

Now that the lockdown is slowly starting to lift, I believe it is time we focused our efforts on holding some form of memorial service to honour all the dead since early March.

Entire families living among us still crave that recognition, that consolation. Now, for a precious hour or so, the nation can unite and show them we feel for them in their loss.

The State, along with churches of all denominations and none, and other groups such as our heroic health workers, must set aside a Day of Remembrance — a Sunday would be a natural day — when we can take time out to fittingly honour our dead.

Of course, choosing a suitable date will not be easy. But if, as all the signs indicate, the virus is going to be vastly reduced or even eliminated from the country for at least a month or two this summer before the expected second wave in the autumn, then time is now of the essence. Perhaps a Sunday in July or August would be best.

But we need to hold this memorial day with due deference to the virus still in our midst.

So, all churches should be opened to the public, but social distancing must prevail. No bread and wine, no collection plate, no fountains or candles. Just people occupying the pews.

The State broadcaster could televise the main services and broadcast others on the radio — as could other local and national broadcasters, selecting different churches and denominations to ensure that all faiths get a fair hearing.

One good idea would be to invite people who have lost a loved one during the lockdown into the churches, and urge others to stay at home and watch on TV and listen on radio.

At a set point in proceedings, we could have a national five-minute silence to honour our fallen in this terrible ongoing war on Covid-19.

Nothing can bring back the people we have lost to the virus, and to other ailments, in the past three months, but you sense such a day of unity and remembrance would be a valuable support; just so those grieving can feel they are no longer alone.

For so many people — and for the nation as a whole — it would be a massive help in the healing of our proud country.

The thought that such a day of remembrance may have to be repeated after a second and subsequent wave sends a shiver down the spine.

But if the virus allows us a breather, then some form of recognition now is surely due.

It is up to our President and his government to get the ball rolling to organise such a day.

Our Taoiseach famously said on St Patrick’s Day: “In years to come, let them say of us, when things were at their worst, we were at our best.”

For the sake of all the victims of Covid-19, it’s time to, once again, be at our best.

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