How do we celebrate lives lived 
during COVID-19?

It seems neighbourly chitchats online or metres apart on the sidewalk are devoting more time to speculating about when we’ll get back to some semblance of normality. We’re all looking forward to gathering with family and friends to plan and celebrate birthdays, graduations, backyard BBQs – all still held in suspended animation.

Getting together to connect, reminisce and make plans while celebrating builds strong families, friendships and communities. Conference calls and neighbourhood shoutouts have served us well, yet we long for the more personal, tangible, shoulder to shoulder contact. According to a 2017 University of Ottawa research report, entitled “Touch in the Healing Professions” that discusses a number of complex perspectives, touch deprivation brings pain and appropriate caring touch has amazing healing power.

With celebrations so valued, why is it that one celebration tends to be avoided until the last minute or planned furtively? Granted, a celebration of life brings with it much sadness and grief. Perhaps we delay what we fear will be a difficult discussion with our loved ones. During the COVID-19 pandemic, more of us are needing to have these sensitive conversations. So, Leaside Life reached out to two local businesses to provide guidance:

Humphrey Funeral Home A.W. Miles – Newbigging Chapel

Kim Hunter, owner of Humphrey Funeral Home A.W. Miles –Newbigging Chapel and a funeral professional for over four decades, offered timely advice regarding end-of-life celebrations. “This winter we’ve had many more families contacting us regarding pre-planning arrangements. Some at the urging of care facilities, others realizing this may be a conversation long overdue. Some have mentioned that this pandemic has nudged them to venture into celebration of life conversations.”

A pre-planning celebration of life conversation can be uncomfortable, yet Hunter advises that “this pandemic has pushed many families into an urgent and stressful situation. Plan now to ensure your own wishes are honoured and you have time to honour the wishes of loved ones. Pre-planning arrangements remove one stressor at a difficult time.” He added, “Write down your own and your loved one’s pre-planning preferences. Just as we consider a loved one’s wishes for other celebrations, how lovely to honour their wishes at end of life. Contact licensed professionals and ask all your questions. Keep all your pre-planning details and contacts easily accessible.”

Affordable Burials and Cremations

Andrew Newbigging, owner of Affordable Burials and Cremations, has followed in the footsteps of his father and grandparents. “My grandfather started Murray E. Newbigging Funeral Home in 1950. My father took over the business in 1993, and when I secured my licence in 2000 I joined him,” he explained. In 2009, Newbigging shifted his career path slightly and launched his business in Leaside. As he said, “I wanted to serve families by offering a simpler alternative to traditional funerals at a time of shifting social customs.”

For this pandemic period, he offered sage advice: “Plan now while you are clear thinking and have the time to research and discuss the options with close family and friends. Contact several funeral homes and settle on one you feel comfortable with and get your pre-arrangements done, now.” He concluded with crucial information: “Be aware that new admissions for hospitals and nursing home residents are currently required to have pre-arrangements in place. Plus, the additional protocols required by the Ministry of Health have imposed strict timelines to ensure the safety of all frontline staff. Now is the best time to settle your pre-arrangements.”


About Suzanne Park 60 Articles
Suzanne Park is a leadership and conversation coach and writer who enjoys bringing to the pages of Leaside Life the unique experiences and community contributions of her Leaside neighbours. Her daughter Zhen, a student at Leaside High School, is also a contributor to Leaside Life with a fresh perspective on her community.