Seven siblings are being forced to decide which of them will be allowed to attend their father’s funeral. The restrictions over funeral attendance are due to the coronavirus lockdown put in place across the country.
72-year-old Wybourn resident Gerald Hackford was discovered dead on 16th April having died of a heart blockage. Although the cause of death is not related to COVID-19, social distancing rules have placed severe restrictions on public gatherings, and that includes funerals. Now, the seven children of Mr Hackford have been told by Sheffield City Council that only five of them can attend the funeral service.
Geraldine West, daughter of Mr Hackford, asked journalists “How are we supposed to make this decision? Who will go, who won’t?” Mr Hackford was a single father who raised all seven children alone. Since the UK lockdown in March, funeral attendance has been limited so that the spread of the disease is slowed down. However, different regions have different rules in place. So even though the seven siblings were willing to wear masks and gloves while maintaining social distancing, Sheffield City Council has denied the gathering of seven.
Funeral restrictions are causing heartbreak across the country, adding stress and pressure on those families that have lost someone during the pandemic. Although the current government guidelines state that funerals should be held as usual, they stress that families should maintain social distancing while restricting funeral attendance to “close family members’ only”.
Gerald Hackford was a former steelworker, who worked making Zimmer frames for Sheffield City hospitals, and there has been a rush of tributes being delivered to the family. The seven siblings, Geraldine. Steven, Michelle, Paul, Donna, Melissa, and Marika now have to decide who will be able to attend the funeral and who will have to stay home. It is not just the siblings themselves who are facing heartbreak, with Mr Hackford’s 33 grandchildren and 25 great-grandchildren also being forced to miss the proceedings.
The restrictions are made even more painful after police allowed hundreds of people to attend a funeral in Manchester on 23rd April, citing public safety as the reason why the gathering was allowed to continue. Superintendent Rebecca Boyce from GMP’s City of Manchester division said that “In the lead up to the funeral, officers engaged with the immediate family of the man who had sadly lost his life to explain the government guidelines and to discuss details of their plans.”
Other families have looked at alternative methods of paying their respects. At the funeral on Saturday 25th April for Joseph Bowman in Denton Holme, local residents lined the streets as the horse and cart took the much-loved father and grandfather to the funeral service, with residents cheering as they maintained their social distancing. Daughter Shelly McGinley, said, “It was beautiful. We couldn’t give him the send-off he deserved, but to see everyone line the streets it was very moving.”
As the family of Gerald Hackford struggle to decide who can and cannot attend the funeral, others are also feeling the impact that the lockdown has caused. The National Association of Funeral Directors has advised that funerals should be arranged via phone or email and that funerals themselves should prioritise having the smallest number of attendees possible. For the family of Gerald Hackford, that is at least two people too few.