TIMESLIVE SPECIAL PROJECT | Deaths, funerals and mortuaries during Covid-19

EXPLAINER | Son reveals strain of arranging Covid-19 funeral

Mark Steenbok's dad died of Covid-19 over the weekend — he explains what it takes to arrange a funeral in the midst of a global pandemic

07 August 2020 - 07:30 By Iavan Pijoos
The coffin of a suspected Covid-19 victim is lowered into the ground at a cemetery in the south of Johannesburg. No family members or friends arrived for the funeral as most were overseas and could not travel to SA.
The coffin of a suspected Covid-19 victim is lowered into the ground at a cemetery in the south of Johannesburg. No family members or friends arrived for the funeral as most were overseas and could not travel to SA.
Image: ALON SKUY

Arranging or attending a funeral is a very emotional and personal time. These unprecedented times have made it even tougher.

Before, mourners — no matter the number — could attend the funeral of a loved one, even from across borders. But due to the strict social distancing measures and cross-border travel restrictions, funerals in the country are now restricted to a maximum of 50 mourners.

According to current lockdown regulations, you may only travel to attend a funeral if you are a partner, child, child-in-law, parent, sibling or grandparent of the deceased.

You also need a permit (jump to page 31 here for a copy of the permit, which must be filled out and stamped at a police station).

At the end, the question still remains: “How will I lay my loved one to rest?”

TimesLIVE spoke to Mark Steenbok, who is in the process of arranging the funeral of his father, who died of Covid-19 in Bloemfontein over the weekend.

Cecil Norman Steenbok, 62, battled Covid-19 for 11 days in hospital. Two days before celebrating his 30th wedding anniversary with his wife, he died.

When Cecil died on Saturday, the hospital requested that his family remove his body within two to three hours. He is expected to be buried this weekend.

A local funeral parlour has been assisting the family with the arrangements, said Mark.

“They have explained fully to us the procedures. They unfortunately mentioned that these types of funerals are very cold and not the way we are used to. So despite everything you still have to adapt to new ways of doing things as well,” he said.

Mark offered these guidelines for arranging a funeral during the lockdown:

  • Compile a list of 50 people who would be attending the funeral. “You don’t want to be on the wrong side of the law. We have to write down every person's details on a form the funeral parlour handed to us — they warned that we can be chased away from the funeral if authorities find out you have more than the limited number,” he said.
  • With night vigils banned, the family arranged a drive-by memorial service a day after the passing.
  • Each immediate family member attending the funeral was sent a copy of the death certificate to apply for a permit with the form 4 of annexure A from their nearest magistrate's office or police station (see more here).
  • On the day of the funeral, the body will not be allowed to enter the house. It will remain in the hearse outside the yard. The family will have a brief service before the hearse will do a final drive-by for the family to bid farewell.
  • You skip the traditional church services and move straight to the cemetery. “It is definitely against the norm and what we are used to, and puts a lot of unnecessary emotional strain on the family,” he said.
  • At the cemetery, no-one is allowed to go near the grave. Family members have to watch from a distance how the coffin is lowered and the grave is closed.
  • Once the burial is completed, everyone goes to their homes.

“There are a lot of people across the country who won’t be able to attend my father’s funeral. It's really sad and unfortunate,” added Mark.

“We will have to find alternative means to celebrate his remarkable life as this rushed process simply does not allow for such.”

TimesLIVE



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