A grieving family has been forced to postpone their loved one’s funeral for six months to give her the send-off she deserved as tough coronavirus lockdown measures ruined their plans for her final farewell.
South Australian woman Julie Olds passed away last Thursday aged 66 from complications related to lung disease – an illness she had fought for more than five years.
A mother-of-five with seven siblings of her own, Mrs Olds hailed from a big family with more than 200 people expected to fill the chapel’s halls in her home town of Balaklava, South Australia, for the funeral.
But a litany of government restrictions rolled out over the past week, progressively tightening the limit on social gatherings, have forced her five daughters and husband, Graham Olds, 68, into radically altering the funeral arrangements.
Helen Wildash, 43, said her family has made the heart breaking decision to postpone the funeral for her mother, Julie Olds, 66 (pictured together at Christmas 2006)
With new rules implemented on Tuesday night only permitting ten people to attend a funeral, Mrs Olds’ daughter Helen Wildash, 43, said the family have made the heartbreaking decision to postpone the March 31 service by six months.
‘It is awful. It feels really unfair,’ Ms Wildash told Daily Mail Australia.
‘All the elements that making it worth having – comforting each other, hugging, sitting close and sharing memories – have all been taken away.
‘With ten people that barely includes my sisters, their partners, and the celebrant.
‘It was becoming less and less intimate, less and less a celebration of her life.
‘It’s a terrible blow for someone that was so loved. She was the kind of person that would have 200 to 300 people at her funeral.’
Ms Wildash said the family had been watching coronavirus-induced social changes unfold since her mother was hospitalised on March 16, and had braced themselves for the potential impact.
Mrs Old had requested to have the service at Balakalva, but regulations introduced on Friday limiting buildings to a capacity of one person per four square metres made the small space no longer feasible.
Funeral directors recommended another venue to the family, Taylor and Forgie in Gawler, 66km south east, which would be able to accommodate the guest numbers.
It also had built-in live streaming equipment prior to the virus outbreak, which would enable vulnerable guests isolating as a precaution to watch the service from home, including some of Mrs Olds’ brothers and sisters.
Mrs Olds has been remembered as generous with both her times and gifts. She is pictured with husband Graham Olds, 68, and their five daughters, son-in-law, and grandchildren on Christmas 2001
Mrs Olds (far right) with three of her seven siblings in 1963
In preparation, the funeral home had begun setting up rows of seats 1.5 metres apart to abide by the government’s social distancing measures, allowing 83 people inside, another 25 in the foyer, and more to congregate outside.
With some COVID-19 vulnerable attendees, Ms Wildash suffering from diabetes and her sister an auto immune disease, pins had been prepared to hand out to those who were OK with being hugged.
A hand-washing regime had also been set up requiring guests to scrub as they walked in, sign the commemoration book with their own pen, then wash their hands again.
But on Tuesday the family were dealt a final blow with the Prime Minister’s announcement of the 10-person limit.
On top of that, the mix of native plants and roses the grandmother-of-five had asked for were unavailable as recent Australian crises had dwindled supplies.
‘For her coffin we wanted a spray of native flowers, banksias, but when we called yesterday there were only four portions available in the state because of the bushfires and coronavirus, and roses are also in short supply’ Ms Wildash said.
The family had already begun making arrangements at Taylor and Forgie (pictured), in Gawler, to hold the funeral on March 31 when the government imposed even tighter coronavirus crackdowns
The government’s announcement later that evening sealed the family’s decision to postpone the ceremony until a time when Mrs Olds, remembered as popular, generous and a passionate aged care worker, can be honoured befittingly.
Instead, the family will take care of the formalities and will have their own very small memorial while planning for a proper service in six months’ time.
Ms Wildash said the funeral directors did an amazing job trying address their wishes while observing the laws and that they became emotional on Tuesday when the latest guidelines meant the celebration was no longer realistic.
She said the family completely understand the importance of government measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus and that the co-occurrence of the unfortunate events was just incredibly unlucky timing.
‘When the announcement came out last night there were very strong emotions from our family. I was sad, angry and upset,’ she said.
Proud grandparents: The Olds pictured with their daughters, son-in-laws, and grandchildren in a group shot in 2015
Mr and Mrs old pictured on their wedding day with the bride’s siblings
‘It would be good for us to just get together as a family but we are incredible aware of the precautions and why they exist.
‘It is the worst possible timing you could have. Who can you be angry at? I’m just angry at the universe.’
‘For a funeral its very important to have close personal contact and that is something that we don’t want to risk at the moment.
‘It’s not worth the time, cost, sadness or trouble to live-stream a half-hearted event next week. Where is the emotion in that?’
‘We would rather wait.’