How Covid-19 robbed my family of the chance to grieve properly
The coronavirus pandemic robbed my family of mourning our father properly
Last Sunday, on Easter, my father died after a five-year battle with cancer. He was 76.
Under normal circumstances, we would have had a three- or five-day wake and many of my parents' friends and relatives would have come to pay their respects to him.
But with Covid-19, these are not normal times. In the end, we had only a two-day, one-night wake and he was cremated last Tuesday.
The night he died, the funeral director told us we would not be given many tables and chairs because only 10 people would be allowed at any one time.
We were supplied forms for mourners to write down their particulars for contact tracing purposes. There was even a column for their temperature.
It has been tough on my mother, 73, to lose her husband of 52 years and she wanted to mourn him properly.
Like having their friends from church, line dancing circle and our many relatives say goodbye to him. But the virus robbed her, my sister and I, of all that.
My mother wanted family and friends to celebrate his life with a dinner after his cremation. Just like how her family did when her mother died 15 years ago.
I had to remind her all restaurants are banned from having dine-in customers and social gatherings were forbidden.
She kept silent and stared blankly ahead.
During the wake, every mourner wore a mask. To prevent people from staying long, we did not order food.
In the obituary, I wrote: "In view of current Covid-19 restrictions, only immediate family members will be allowed at the church funeral mass and at Mandai Crematorium on 14 April."
I kept details vague to dissuade people from coming.
I had to tell close family and friends, especially those with elderly parents, that it was all right to not come. I was afraid of offending them.
And some, who apologised for not being able to come because of their elderly parents, were afraid of offending us.
It was a delicate process, one no family should have to go through. But our family is just one of many here and around the world who have to adjust to the new normal.
The threat of fines also weighed on our minds. Whenever a new group came, we had to count if the number of people at the wake exceeded 10.
We had to ask some to leave and stand outside to make room for others.The same 10-person rule applied at my father's funeral mass at the Church of Christ The King in Ang Mo Kio.
We just made it - my mother, my sister and her two kids, and me, my wife and our four children.
It was a sombre ceremony made worse by the sight of seeing the empty church.
The cremation at Mandai was just as bleak, with only the 10 of us allowed inside.
But the interrupted grieving process did not end there.
My mother should be surrounded by family and friends visiting her at home to spend hours talking about my dad and the simple life he lived. She would also have loved to seek solace in church.
But because all churches are closed and we have been told to stay home, she would have to grieve alone with her helper.
With the virus expected to still be here next year, those with very elderly or terminally ill family members must be hoping they do not have to hold a wake during this period.
That is why it is important for us to stay home as the virus, not us, is in charge. It is making us rethink how we have lived our lives, like how we treat foreign workers and our helpers.
We will eventually weather this storm. But if we come out of this still behaving the way we used to, then we would have robbed ourselves of a chance to be the people we were meant to be.