The advent of COVID-19 and its variants to Jamaica since March 2020 has caused untold hardships to us as individuals and as a nation. Every faucet of life has been upended. Each sector has suffered tremendously as restrictions have been put in place to try and curb the spread of this pandemic.
One of the hardest hit areas have been funerals because of the emotional distress that is associated with losing a loved one. We have gone from no burials to no funerals, 30 minutes at graveside, then to 10, 15, 20 people only inside the building. The last statement made by Prime Minister Andrew Holness on December 7, 2021 stated that the protocol for funerals remained at 20 people in the building, including clergy, musician, tech staff, and mourners.
Let me state that I consider this to be unrealistic. Most families easily have more than 20 people who would want to be in attendance to pay their last respects to their loved ones. Churches also want to give their members, who have served faithfully, some for years, a decent homegoing.
The churches have found or created a loophole to circumvent the protocol set out by the Government — having the body locked away in the hearse on or off the church compound while they have what they call a memorial or thanksgiving service inside the building, following which the procession moves to the burial site.
Churches that choose to follow the protocol of 20 people inside the building are considered heartless, callous, lacking in compassion, and even wicked. Families are turning against those churches, ministers are sidelining ministers, resulting in untold grief to everyone.
My questions in this matter are:
1) Is the Government aware of the aforementioned?
2) Is it the dead body that is the COVID-19 risk, or is it the crowd that the Government is trying to avoid?
3) When is a funeral not a funeral? Is there a legal code anywhere that states that if the body is not in the church building it is not a funeral?
4) Are churches, inadvertently, or willingly, breaking the law and thus aiding and abetting the further spread of the novel coronavirus?
This pandemic has taught us a number of lessons, one such being that the things we considered of major importance are in fact minor. We have been majoring in the minor and minoring in the major for years. Now we have been forced to shift our focus. But some people just refuse to do so.
When one dies, it does not matter the beautiful casket, the large crowd, and all the other trappings that go with a funeral, the important thing is to know that the person's soul is right with the Lord. Of course, we all want to do the best for our dearly departed, so what do we do?
I am beseeching the Government of Jamaica to take a look at what is happening with funerals and put in place a more realistic guideline. Weddings are being allowed 100 people, why only 20 for funerals?
I really hope and pray that there will be a change for the better.