I AM most assuredly not the only one. That is, not the only one to have been prevented from attending the funeral of one near and dear because of the coronavirus travel restrictions.

My Uncle Bill, or Willy as he was affectionately known by us youngsters for obvious and mostly childish reasons, was a real character.

He was Bill to most of the adults, except his wife, who also called him by his somewhat suggestive nickname.

Uncle Willy wasn’t really my uncle. He was the husband of my mum’s cousin, but mum’s family is tight and he had been Uncle Willy to me as long as I can remember.

We shared an interest in old cars, and he had a couple of beauties, so that was usually where our conversations started.

That, and motorcycles. He had ridden in his younger days, and I still do, so he was always keen to know what I was riding and where to.

He was a big, beefy, red-headed bloke who worked on the local Council all his life, ‘rising through the ranks’ to become the supervisor of the roadworks gang and by all accounts was a superlative grader driver.

A good bloke to have a beer with, and to have a yarn with.

The father of two boys, he was a man’s man who liked to laugh and often ended his sentences with “…and what not.”

Yes, I was fond of him, so it was a real wrench when I couldn’t attend his recent funeral.

Funerals are a topic of conversation that does not come up often in my circle of friends, unless we are attending one for one of our peers, and at our age that is, thankfully, not too often.

They are always sad occasions, but there is something healing about them at the same time. Maybe that is what many people refer to as ‘closure’.

It is something I broached with my mate Alan ‘Sandy’ Cameron, PICTURED.

He, more recently associated with the Sunraysia Men’s Shed, but also known for his Harley-Davidson tours, balloon flights and bicycles.

Sandy is a civil celebrant, who regularly officiates at funerals and during one of our most recent conversations I was bemoaning the fact that I had not been allowed to attend Uncle Willy’s funeral.

“Mmmmm,” said Sandy, “You’re not the only person to feel they have missed out.”

Apparently Sandy, through his profession as a celebrant, is aware of a many folk who are feeling ‘cheated’ because they have not been able to attend the funeral of a relative or friend, or someone they respected, and say a ‘proper farewell’.

“For a good many people,” Sandy said, “That equates to a lack of closure.”

Being a ‘doer’, Sandy has come up with a simple, dignified solution – a memorial service. And he expects there to be a rash of them in the future as people congregate to give the departed a fitting farewell that they were not permitted to during the COVID-19 lockdown and assembly restrictions.

Memorial services are not new, but the circumstances certainly are.

“We have never been through something like this before,” Sandy said referring to the coronavirus restrictions.

“So it is unchartered territory.”

But, he says, a memorial service for the departed once the restrictions are lifted may well be a fitting way for people to say goodbye properly.

It would virtually be the funeral all over again, he explained, but with all the people who want to attend allowed to.

Of course it would be without the casket.

“True, but people will get the send-off they deserve,” Sandy said, “With family and friends able to say goodbye in the traditional way we have become accustomed to.”

Sandy acknowledges that the memorial service idea may not be for everyone.

“Some people may feel it would stir up emotions again that they have already dealt with,” he said

“But for those who want to feel they have honoured the departed in the traditional fashion, a memorial service would be the way to go.”

I liked the idea. Even if the casket is not there, I believe the departed would certainly be in spirit…and it would allow the living to move on, comforted by the knowledge that their loved one had been farewelled appropriately surrounded family and friends.

Worth thinking about.

• Editors note: Presently in Victoria, 50 people can attend a funeral in addition to the personal leading the funeral and other funeral staff, subject to the four square metre rule. If a funeral is held in a home, the private gathering rules apply – that is a maximum of 20 people can be present plus funeral staff. In NSW, the number is also a maximum of 50.