The Prince of Wales has backed a virtual book of remembrance for Covid-19 victims allowing families to express their “loss and sorrow” but celebrate “everything good” about their loved ones.
Charles said the outbreak had “brought tragedy and heartbreak” for “too many” but the Remember Me initiative, launched by St Paul’s Cathedral, was “here to help” keep alive memories of those who have died.
In just over five weeks, Dr David Ison, Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral, and colleagues have progressed from a standing start to design and build an online portal where the bereaved of all faiths and none can “put that grief and that remembrance”.
The number of deaths involving Covid-19 in the UK has passed 44,000, according to the latest available data, with many dying in hospital alone and the numbers of mourners at funerals limited.
In a video message in support of the project, Charles said: “This virtual book of remembrance is here to help us remember; not just to recall our loss and sorrow, but also to be thankful for everything good that those we have loved brought into our lives, and all that they have given to others.
“We give thanks for how our lives have been woven together with theirs and, through this book, you are invited to share their lives with others – so that we and those who follow us can all remember what has been, and build together a better and more hopeful future.”
Family and friends of all those living in the UK who have died as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic can submit for free a name, photograph and a short message in honour of their loved one.
The prince, who has recovered from coronavirus, recorded his video at Birkhall, his Scottish home, and said about Covid-19: “For too many among us, this has brought tragedy and heartbreak. For some, relatives have not been able to be present at the time of their loved one’s passing.
“For many, the loss of their loved ones has been made all the more agonisingly painful by the necessary restrictions on funerals, travel and gatherings. For all of us, there has been anxiety in the present as we have wondered what the future will be.”
St Paul’s community has experienced loss during the pandemic with the mother of Oliver Caroe, surveyor of the fabric of the cathedral, dying on April 5 aged 81 due to Covid-19.
Mr Caroe, whose job was famously held by the architect of St Paul’s Sir Christopher Wren, said about Mrs Caroe, a former GP and police surgeon: “When my mum was sent off in an ambulance, we feared we would never see her again.
“Not having any of the closeness, face to face conversations or rituals that you would normally have in place with someone over their last days adds to the deep emotional impact.”
He said his mother’s family and friends were planning a party in her honour: “In the meantime, I hope the Remember Me memorial will help us all look ahead, past the immediate, painful horizon, in hope.”
The idea for the memorial project stemmed from a conversation the Dean had with the Bishop of London Dame Sarah Mullally in mid April when she mentioned an online book she had come across and he decided to create a virtual book of remembrance.
Dr Ison, who has recorded a video to launch the project, said: “It’s important for people’s spiritual, emotional and mental health to be able to express grief and have somewhere to put that grief and that remembrance.”
And he said collectively expressing tributes following a death was vital as it helped people connect: “Of course it’s a personal tragedy and loss for people but to know that’s shared and that’s understood by other people in the country ‘that we share this together’ is a supportive thing.”
The Remember Me site will also become a physical memorial at the cathedral, funds allowing, with designs approved for a new inner porch in the north transept.
The cathedral’s choristers have recorded a special version of Mendelssohn’s Lift Thine Eyes, part of Psalm 121, to serve as an anthem for the online book of remembrance.
Recorded separately by the schoolboys as they are in lockdown, their vocal parts were mixed together to create the musical tribute.