The COVID-19 pandemic changes the funeral traditions in Lebanon that people could hardly say goodbye to their beloved ones who passed away due to the restrictions of gathering.
by Dana Halawi
BEIRUT, March 8 (Xinhua) — Three months after losing her father amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Hanadi Abdallah, a Lebanese lady in her 40s, is still in a state of utmost grief and sadness for not saying a proper goodbye to her most precious person in the life, let alone giving him a proper funeral.
“My father passed away without being able to gather the people he loved to pray for him and honor his memory,” Abdallah told Xinhua.
Saying goodbye to loved ones and holding burial services and funerals are parts of a mourning process. However, many governments worldwide placed strict restrictions amid the COVID-19 pandemic over attending such occasions in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus.
Alami lost his father to a heart attack, yet it was impossible to give him a funeral or a condolences gathering since people are not allowed to meet in groups amid continuous increase in COVID-19 cases in Lebanon.
Fadi Shams, owner of Ezzat Company which provides funeral services, told Xinhua that the people attending funerals and burial services dropped by 90 percent after COVID-19.
“Even if the deceased did not die from the coronavirus, you would only find a maximum of five people attending the funeral at the church,” he said.
Shams noted that prior to the COVID-19 epidemic, families of the deceased used to be picky in choosing the coffins and flowers to be placed in churches during funerals, but things have changed for now.
“Today, people ask for the cheapest coffins as funerals have become restricted to close family members, not to forget the dire economic conditions in the country,” Shams said.
Kamal Harb, who owns a company offering funeral services, told Xinhua that people used to serve visitors sandwiches during funerals and hire waiters to serve food in honor of the deceased.
“Funerals used to cost at least 1,300 U.S. dollars, however, the biggest funeral now only costs about 1.3 million Lebanese pounds (130 U.S. dollars),” Harb said.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in Lebanon, families of the deceased made death announcements on social media platforms by placing their phone numbers on scanned funeral papers for people who wish to offer their condolences.
“It’s very sad to see our loved ones leaving this world while we are not able to feel the support of our close friends except virtually,” Lama Obegi, who lost her older brother in a car accident two months ago, told Xinhua.
“The COVID-19 epidemic has changed one of our most important and valuable traditions,” she added.