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Neighbourhood Honour Guard

One of the struggles people are having in this time of Covid-19 is how to recognize important life moments normally shared with extended family and friends; this includes funerals and celebrations of life.

This is the story of how one family was able to honour their person given the restrictions Covid-19 is placing on social gatherings.

The primary caregiver in this story had participated in an honour guard at Hospice Peterborough for a person that had died in the Hospice Residence. When her husband died at home, she felt is was important to adapt this ceremony to create a neighbourhood honour guard. After the death, along with calling the funeral home the family reached out to friends and neighbours. Friends drove over to the home and neighbours came out onto the street observing physical distancing protocols. Some of those participating in the honour guard held signs with his name and others clapped in honour of the deceased and as a show of support for his family. When the funeral homes vehicle pulled away, the family got into their car and fell into line next and then all the extended family and friends that had driven to the neighbourhood joined the procession and escorted them to the funeral home. At the funeral home the family stood out front and waved to each of their friends as they drove past them. This ceremony provided a creative way to recognize a life well lived and to honour the family grieving in this time where physical proximity is challenging.

One of the tips the caregiver shared for making this work successfully was to think about it ahead of time and to have a rough plan. Public protocols continue to change daily, so it is not the time to have a rigid plan about what the honour guard will look like but having ideas about what is important to you and your family helps as you will likely not feel like planning to pull together people in the immediate time after your loved one dies. Things to consider ahead of time include:

1. Would I prefer to have my family member’s face covered or uncovered during an honour guard? Is there a special blanket or item I would like to have with my special person’s body during the honour guard? The funeral home can return these items to you after your person’s body is in the vehicle.

2. Who is a key person that can communicate the details at the appropriate time and contact everyone? The caregiver in this story, suggests people put together a distribution list that they could send the information out to by email or text rather than needing to communicate it person by person after the death.