THE novel Coronavirus has grinded to a halt almost all worlds’ biggest moments, ceremonies and special days. Owning to the ease of the lockdown by government, the relaxation of the lockdown gave some people the opportunity to still hold their events in a subtle way with maximum number of not more than 30 attendants as directed by Anambra State Government unlike during the lockdown when all form of social gatherings were banned. However, some people for certain reasons have continued to postpone their events till after the pandemic and some other crop of people are still grumbling in confusion or questions on what to do and how best to handle such situations at this time?
There is no doubt that special gatherings give people the avenue to reunite, reinforce and share more bonding. It is also a moment when people who because of distance, work and some other tight schedules that limit them have opportunity to meet their loved ones, family members, friends, friends, relatives, colleagues, old school mates who they have not seen for years or some times; to assemble together and share their lives’ experiences, ideas, happiness, burdens, interests and more to create room for understanding among themselves as individuals and collective units.
It is obvious that people will never wish the world to be engulfed in the global threat killing thousands of people and affecting man’s activities and also if humans have luxury of time in their grip, they will adjust the time to host elaborate events with desired number of guests before the coronavirus froze social gathering activities which they have already fixed before the disease emerged as a serious issue and concern around the globe. The pandemic has thrown these special days and events in awry by taken away the warming get- together communication among people in a twinkling of an eye and it seems there is no possibility of organising events in prior manner till the health menace that spreads like fire erupting from dragon’s mouth in folktales gets a cure or vaccination against it.
As no one knows how long the coronavirus pandemic is going to last, adjustment is imminent as some people who have already fixed dates for their events have resorted to have simple and intimate ceremonies having only few family members and relatives in attendance; not exceeding 30 guests as stipulated by relevant authorities instead of pending the dates, while other categories of people who also had earlier scheduled dates have cancelled or postponed their supposed events till after the pandemic with the prospect of having big ceremonies and for some certain reasons.
Our society is naturally shaped that burial ceremonies are considered as important occasions just like weddings. The interment rites, presence of some family members during the events are paramount and serious preparations are done before burials as a way of giving the deceased a befitting burial. This makes some bereaved families to put on hold burying their dead ones till they have enough resources.
Because many families are waiting and hoping that the pandemic will end soon has resulted to most mortuaries being filled with corpses waiting to meet mother earth. Unfortunately, after the ease of COVID – 19 lockdown in most places, things remained almost the same just like during the period of the lockdown in terms of performing burials and other occasions.
In Anambra State for example, government is making every effort to ensure compliance of citizens in containing the spread of the virus by mapping out preventive measures for people who are hosting events must endeavour to put in place to avoid endangering the lives of people in any gathering. Such measures include strictly making sure that all guests at an event are putting on face masks, situating a place where attendants can wash their hands in running water and soap or use alcohol based hand sanitisers, checking people’s temperature at the entrance point and making sure that they are not confined in a place but rather sitting at least two meters apart from each other. It is expected that before any event, that the above listed approach to curtailing the transmission of the deadly virus need to be put in place and taken seriously.
Based on this, some people who have already scheduled dates for burial or yet to fix dates are left with no choice than to abide by the directives or to shift supposed dates till after the pandemic which no one knows how long it will last.
A lot of other events like weddings, conferences, reunions, birthday parties, anniversaries, child naming ceremonies, engagement parties, among others were cancelled till further notice because those who want elaborate events are afraid of contacting the virus because of population as they don’t want to go against the government rule, want family members and friends to grace their occasions. Some people who have already made huge expenses in preparation and wouldn’t want to waste gifts for the large number of guests and other items that were bought for the occasion before the lockdown are going ahead to do their events, though with grudges.
Commenting on the situation, a mother, Ifeyinwa Nkwocha, who spoke on why her family members postponed the burial ceremony of her father -in- law till after the lockdown, said it was because the children of the deceased were outside the country and not able to come back to Nigeria because of the global pandemic that shutdown flights and also, others who are in northern part of the country are restrained because of the general embargo on inter-state movement on the orders of federal government.
She also revealed that all necessary preparations have been made and set ready before the lockdown, and that the family is yet to decide on what to do as the presence of family members is very important and major determinant of holding the burial.
For Izuchukwu Enukorah whose wedding ceremony was supposed to take place on April 16, this year, few days before the interstate lockdown , “initially, I was perplexed about the whole situation but as a Christian, I pray to god about the happenings. It was an unhappy moment for me. I handed everything to God and he gave me a calm and relaxed mind over the situation and i believe that in every disappointment, there is a blessing in disguise. You don’t know what God has in store for you or what would have happened; maybe God used it as something to avert or prepare it in a way that it will even favour me”.
Enukorah also still hopes that the pandemic will end soon to enable him carry on with his wedding arrangements the way he had wished before the pandemic. According to him, he is yet to re-fix a date for his wedding because he still hopes that the pandemic will soon end to enable him continue his plans of having family members, friends, colleagues and well wishers around to rejoice with him on the great day as it is all about celebration, not mourning.
“I hope for the best that things will get normal this June or July. To start adjusting it again will be hard for me. However, if it doesn’t get better, I may now follow suite and go by government’s order, but if it turns out for good; then I will continue with my initial plan. I adjusted my wedding day to enable friends and family members that were invited to recover from the lockdown and also be happy while celebrating with me; also for borders to open for those who are coming from far places to be able to attend the wedding. So many people during the lockdown made so many expenses to sustain themselves and I’m thinking of giving out some of these things to people as a way cushioning the effect on the people. I really want people to come and merry with me on that day but we have to place life first. It’s not about people giving me wedding gifts, I want them to be around and rejoice with me but the health crisis has seized that moment. I pray for God’s intervention. Many people are suffering already because of the health challenge. I wish it ends soon and people will live like before or better”
Manager of Regina Caeli Hospital, Awka, Fr. Jerome Mmadumere expressed that before COVID-19 emerged, people were burying their loved ones more as many corpses were taken away from the hospital’s mortuary more than during the lockdown and even after the lockdown was eased; that people have not started taking their corpses as expected or used to be, not knowing that the government is making efforts to cut down unnecessary expenses and also to safeguard lives at this critical moment in the world where the pandemic is not only affecting activities but is also a threat to economy.
“Some people are not cueing in into the idea. A lot of people are waiting for the pandemic to be completely over before they can hold their ceremonies the way they want to, thereby leaving their corpses in the hospital mortuary for long waiting for the pandemic to be over. Our people love pomp and pageantry. They want to do things in a big way. Funeral is a big thing for them. From every indication, the COVID-19 is not easily going away. People will be forced to do what they have to do. So we have to encourage them and also the government to continue to emphasise the need for people to bury their loved ones without pomp and pageantry. Once a person dies, the best thing is to bury the person; we don’t need all these expenses, selling the fortunes of younger ones for burial. The loss of a human being is already a big loss, so why adding more expenses to the one that you have already lost. Make a simple event and then conserve your finances and resources for future generations to better their lives and for the improvement and development of the nation,” he explained.
Awka president General, Tony Okechukwu was of the view that having a simple or elaborate ceremony is a personal decision to individuals, which it is up to the person who wants to organise such event to choose, provided that he or she cues into the government protocols- the way government wants it to be done. He stressed that when the person goes contrary to the government guidelines, it is a problem and big offence. “We can’t be law breakers; we must keep to government directives”.
While advising people on the need to always to comply to all the government directives especially at this time that the world is faced with a global health challenge, he said ,“my advice for people pending their events like burial till after the pandemic is that there are basic requirements for burials. The first requirement is to first of all bury the person, but if the government says no elaborate events, you try to do it in the manner expected and also within the numbers stipulated and end everything. Why do you have to keep postponing burial? These are issues of circumstances. If you want, you can wait, but if you also decide not to, you can go ahead and keep to all traditions; get it done. The ones you need to monetise, you monetise them to avoid being held for it. For how long will you keep waiting? It is up to you to decide by yourself what you want to do about it” he advised.