Here at AltarNatives we have done everything we can to stay positive during these weird times. We have doubled DOWN on staying UP. We have watched weddings disappear and funerals increase. We have worked ON our business when there was no business to work IN. When life dealt us lemons we made lemon scented hand wash… 

But yesterday I saw again, first hand, the cruelty of this disease. Not at the taking of a life, but at the taking of the celebration of a life. Where a family’s worst time was made unimaginable by restrictions and where the complexities of the most acute grief could only be communicated via emoji.

 I can’t lie. It broke me a little.

I was helping a fellow English Speaking Celebrant conduct a funeral for a British family who lived nearby our base here in France. The Crematorium had only just updated their ‘Salle’ and so no streaming was available. 

I agreed to go along and set up a camera and microphone to help stream over facebook to the family back in the UK. The UK based family included the brother and daughter of the deceased. Because of (very sensible) travel restrictions they were unable to attend. 

So this hugely popular man, adored by his family, had only three people in attendance. All of whom were experiencing their grief in a different culture with people who spoke a different language. 

The rest of the immediate family were watching on facebook. So I conscientiously watched the stream, I wasn’t going to let this family down. I could see that people were watching. 

Then the stories began, and the remembrance – it felt empty in that empty room. But a life was being celebrated, told to those present and the lens of the camera in a kind voice. And as the screens closed around the coffin the facebook live page started showing the ‘heart’ emoji, the ‘sad face’ emoji and the new ‘care’ emoji. And I felt something break in me. 

I use emojis all the time on social media. They can be fun, silly, and sometimes rude. They can express meaning occasionally but the one thing I never felt they did, was what they were designed to do, express emotion. 

Imagine having to express those complex emotions, the power of your undying love to someone as special as your father or brother using just emojis. How totally inadequate. But that family, somehow, could not have been more eloquent in their loss. They were remarkable. 

I can absolutely tell you the reason I have been so steadfast, robust and resilient in the face of COVID. Because I have not had anything that bad happen. 

I have not lost a parent or a sibling. I have not had to say goodbye to my loved ones over zoom or facebook or youtube. I have just had to wear a mask, not see my friends as much and take a temporary hit to my business. 

Frankly, what I have had to go through in comparison to that family doesn’t deserve a 🙁

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