Heartbreak and love in lockdown

Celebrant Robyn Johnston is preparing to navigate the changing format of weddings and funerals in...
Celebrant Robyn Johnston. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
Dunedin celebrant Robyn Johnston reflects on the first tranche of Covid-19 response restrictions.

In the week before the lockdown I was dealing with two grieving families, we were already into social distancing and the lockdown was looming. There were no handshakes and in the first instance, the family had not long lost another loved one, whom I had taken the service for, so I was unable to hug them and them, let feel my support.

Not everyone has lost a loved one but I can tell you that it is a time for hugging, a time for families to huddle together, to be encased in the love of friends and family. For that family, they made the decision to wait until after the lockdown to give their loved one the send-off they deserved, it was heartbreaking. For the second family, most of their family were overseas but their loved one had made many friends in their community. By the time their service was to be held we were in total lockdown. Sadness, grief, shock, I truly felt for them.

On the Wednesday of the lockdown, the family asked if my husband and I could do a virtual funeral. We were already going to project a slideshow for them and record the service to be sent overseas. Technology is a wonderful thing in an instance like this, family and friends were invited to record a eulogy of themselves and upload it to Google Drive. I got dressed up, my husband recorded my part of the service, I introduced the speakers and to cut a rather long story short, we produced a funeral service for the family. It had it all, favourite music, beautiful photos, and had many more people giving tributes than a funeral in pre lockdown times. The family was so happy, and I feel absolutely privileged to have been able to give them something to hold on to.

Another part of my life that Covid-19 has affected is my ability to keep on entertaining. I am part of a duo called Tu Tu Tango, my musical partner Doug and I perform in local cafes and bars, at house parties and corporate events. Then there is my singing that I do on my own. Having had two parents in dementia care before they passed, I used to sing to them and the residents at both retirement homes. Singing all the old songs that dementia hasn’t stolen the words for, I have been asked to sing at many rest homes, and this gives me as much pleasure as it does the residents. Singing lifts the soul, it awakens something within our older members of society that age and illness has dampened down.

I was particularly chuffed to see that the carers and staff at my Dad’s resthome had decided to hunker down with the residents during these unprecedented times, I know this would have helped Dad if he had still been alive. So my rather full diary has not been opened for about 19 days now and I am okay with that, the country needed to stop this virus in its tracks.

I have spent my time in lockdown, writing songs, looking at ways to improve what I have to offer and generally finding time to breathe. During the lockdown my husband has lost his job of 26 years, but we will take that as a new beginning, he had been commuting to Auckland every second week and it was taking its toll, so if we can offer our services as a team, then we will go from strength to strength. I just have to get him off the couch!

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