‘I want everybody to know about my dad.’ Why some families want a COVID-19 memorial

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Rob Chorley wanted two songs to be played at his funeral: “Stand by Me” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”

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The 67-year-old wrote the request in a will he didn’t think he would need for a long time. With years of golf, traveling, and grandchildren, he was retired. In February, he went to a Mississauga hospital to have a benign tumor removed from his spine. The surgery went well, but a week later, the hospital called to say he had possibly been exposed to COVID-19.

He tested positive, and his condition worsened. His family couldn’t be with him when he died, and they couldn’t sing those songs at his small funeral. Singing was not allowed.


10,000 Ontarios have died from COVID-19. Can a Memorial Help Us Heal?

Anna Ng, 68, was a wary, shy person she wore on the first day of the pandemic. During the strictest forms of lockdown, she longed to eat Korean food and color her hair at the salon, but she went without those little pleasures because she followed the rules. His family does not know how he got the virus.

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At her funeral, they packed some hair dye in her coffin, as if their mother was leaving for a weekend trip. It was very difficult to think about it any other way.

Rob Chorley, who was in the hospital for all eight births of his grandchildren, and Anna Ng, whose idea of ​​fun made their children happy, are among 10,000 people who have died of COVID-19 in the province. There are two, total reached on Tuesday. Their families are just two of thousands in this province torn apart forever by the pandemic.

Marlene Chorley, one of Rob’s three children, says a memorial or memorial will help with the healing process. Seeing your father’s name in stone is a way to restore humanity in a pandemic that has often confined people to figures.

“My dad was not the ninth person to die on March 22,” she says. “My father was Robert Chorley, who had this whole life, who made people smile and laugh and was a wonderful man who was such a bright light. this world.”

She and her family have had a very difficult time with her death due to the way she was “picked up” from their lives in such a senseless way. “There needs to be some acknowledgment from the government,” she says.

“I want everyone to know about my father,” she adds. “I think if things had been done differently, my dad would still be here today.”

Losing someone during the pandemic, COVID-19, is a completely different experience of death and bereavement, and one that needs to be acknowledged, she says.

Rita Pang, who lost her mother, Anna Ng, feels a memorial will bring solace to families like hers. “If we don’t miss him, who will?” He asked. But she anticipates some objections – “Why are we spending money to comfort a certain group of people and not others, right?”

Anna Ng and Peter Pang on their wedding day.  Both were ill with COVID-19 and died this May on Anna's 40th anniversary.

Her mother was admitted to a Toronto hospital but was transferred to Peterborough in April due to a shortage of ICU beds. He died in May on their 40th wedding anniversary.

“We always thought it was really funny how awesome my dad was with dates,” Pang says. “She was always annoyed about how she didn’t remember her wedding anniversary.

“It’s almost like he’ll never forget from now on.”

Pang says the memorial has to be educational. She studied the history of medicine at university and knows that the response to the pandemic has been the same: misogyny, pseudoscience, people who rest too quickly as the end nears. Pang thinks the memorial could help people stay alert in the future. She follows the COVID numbers closely and worries that people are no longer taking it seriously.

“What kind of follow-up would it take to make sure people remember the lessons they learned?” He asked.

Since Rob Chorley’s death, nearly 300 people have been in touch with his family to say how much he means to them. The circle of grief is wider and deeper, and across the province, there are thousands more. Chorley’s wife, Annemarie, wishes to reflect a memorial, and all the hugs that were missed during their time there.

“We need to remember so that our kids learn,” she says. “It’s sad to say, but there is so much to learn in death and our family is learning them every day. And it’s heartbreaking.”

Katie Dabbs is a STAR reporter and features writer based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @kdaubs

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