A sombre image in a funeral hall of the coffins of an elderly husband and wife who both died from Covid-19 captures the tragic reality of the pandemic as the pair were laid side by side with no mourners in attendance.
The family-run A W Lymn funeral directors has served the people of Nottingham, Notts, since 1907 but never in times such as these.
The coffins of the elderly couple, whose family have asked to remain anonymous, were seen in Wilford Hill Crematorium, Nottingham, on Tuesday. Meanwhile, the two undertakers in the room adhered to social distancing rules, and there were no mourners present as those closest to the deceased were self-isolating.
Only the undertakers were present – all of them socially distanced and bowing their heads in respect throughout. Instead, the touching service was streamed live on the internet.
The moving photographs show the calm and dignity displayed by staff despite the huge pressures they face due to an unprecedented number of tragic deaths.
And despite unusual working conditions – with restrictions on the number of attendees at a funeral and the lack of human contact with grieving families – they maintain tradition.
A celebrant still walks before the slow-moving hearse and the pallbearers still carry the coffins into the place of mourning on their shoulders.
This is the one time staff come closer than the 2m recommended social distancing guidelines.
Chairman Nigel Lymn, who is the fourth generation Lymn family, said: ‘We are much busier than usual. We are now dealing with the same amount of deaths we usually see in wintertime. ‘Just three or four weeks ago we had 80% more deaths than the same period last year. We have had hundreds of Covid deaths.
‘We are managing to cope because services are very different to usual and services are much easier to arrange without having to take account of the busy lives of any mourners wishing to attend.
That means funerals are taking place much quicker than usual, which is a blessing as we would not have enough room to store the bodies if we had a backlog.
‘As it is, we are doing our best to provide a meaningful service in a very sad situation. It is really sad that mourners are not able to attend and say goodbye to their loved ones.
‘Fortunately, in this day and age, many of the services are streamed and so all those wishing to see the service still can.
‘We are also making detours in the hearse to streets where the deceased lived and was known so locals can line the streets and say their farewells.’
Strict rules are in place governing the funeral industry with embalming of the body and viewing not being recommended.
Mr Lymn said: ‘We are not coming into contact with bodies right now so we are protected. It is a respiratory illness so any transmission from a body is considered low.
‘My biggest fear is from the living. Because of that, we have strict procedures in place for us to keep 2m away from each other while we are working and from any mourners.
‘It is sad for our customers that we are not able to offer our usual service of face-to-face interviews and viewings of their deceased family, but we do the best we can.
‘We haven’t had any problems with anybody upset at these new rules. Everybody is scared of the virus, especially those who have lost somebody to coronavirus, so there is a lot of understanding.