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'This pandemic is robbing us': COVID-19 adding obstacles for grieving families planning funerals
REGINA -- The family of a Lebret man who passed away in April has had a difficult time making funeral arrangements, while trying to adhere to physical distancing and other COVID-19 related rules.
Allan Adam Sieben is being remembered as a loving partner, father and grandfather but also a skilled hunter and fisherman with a strong connection to the land.
He suddenly passed away on April 23 due to heart complications. He was 65 years-old.
“He knew something was going on because when he was found by his partner, Barbara he had a bottle of aspirin in his hand, aspirin 81, so that was the first indication and when we were going through his clothing we found more aspirin pills in his pockets,” said Sarah Hall, Sieben’s daughter.
The funeral was held in Peepeekisis Cree Nation on April 30.
Due to the strict rules in place because of COVID-19, only six people were allowed to attend the burial at a time.
“It was very nerve-racking. We were worried we couldn’t bury him on the reserve. We didn’t know what the protocols were, all the barricades were in place. As long as family groups stayed together and separated, they would allow the funeral on the reserve which was really a godsend,” said Hall.
“Most of our families were in Alberta like my husband and my children, they couldn’t come and my sister’s kids couldn’t come. We all have children and they weren’t able to make it to the funeral,” said Hall.
In a rare decision, the funeral was live streamed to social media for family members who couldn’t make and be part of the funeral.
Hall admits, filming the burial with a cellphone and sharing the funeral with families on social media was unusual and she wishes things could have been done differently. She also wished COVID-19 would not keep the families apart during the funeral.
“When we’re mourning, we need each other more than ever and what this pandemic is doing is robbing us of that ability for the human compassion and closeness that we need to mourn completely,” said Hall.
Speers Funeral & Cremation Services has been following the province’s strict guidelines with physical distancing when hosting a funeral.
With permission, they also record a funeral processions and live feed the video privately online for those who cannot make it. Due to COVID-19, Speers has also used iPads and Skype video for family members to take part in a viewing, a new practice Speers will consider doing in the future.
“We want to establish that relationship of care and support that guides them through a where they’re feeling very disconnected,” said Jeff Christiansen, Vice President of Operations of Speers Funeral Chapel.
“We’ve also been using FM transmitters quite effectively, so we’ve had many gravesite gatherings where more than 10 people are there but they follow the restriction to remain in their vehicles as we broadcast the service to them,” added Christiansen.
Despite the restrictions, Hall says she is glad the family attained some closure. She will continue to hold the good memories of her father close to her heart.
“He was passionate about the land. He was always gentle and he was very patient. He’s going to be missed.”