Mersey Memorial Ferry for people who lost loved ones during the pandemic
4 weeks ago
Two hundred people will scatter rose petals on the Mersey in an emotional tribute to family and friends lost through Covid.
Celebrities including actor Philip Olivier will join representatives from the council on board the Mersey Memorial Ferry which will set sail on March 23, Marie Curie’s National Day of Reflection.
The event has been organised by Debbie Lewis who founded Covid-19FamiliesUK to support relatives during the pandemic.
Debbie says: “Although it will be a sombre time, it will be an uplifting one too, as people remember loved ones they’ve lost and offer support to one another.
“Similar events have led to lifelong friendships being made, as those who are grieving realise that they are not alone.”
And she adds: “Scattering the rose petals will be an emotional and heartfelt moment for all those who will gather in memory of someone close. For many it might be the first chance they have had to properly say their goodbyes.”
Covid19FamiliesUK is a network of support groups set up for anyone bereaved during the pandemic.
Although primarily Covid bereaved, it is there for anyone who lost someone during the time of lockdown and ‘the same horrific restrictions’ which meant people couldn’t gather together and properly mourn those who’d died.
Debbie, who was born and brought up in Cheshire but now lives in Milton Keynes, says: “I started Covid19FamiliesUK shortly after losing my own father to Covid in April 2020, and while still grieving the loss of my mother to cancer in October 2019.
“My dad, Richard Barry Lewis – known as Barry – was a fit, healthy, active 74-year-old but, on March 23, 2020, the day the country went into a national lockdown, he was taken into hospital with breathing difficulties. We never saw him again.
“After ending up on life support, and fighting bravely, dad passed away on April 5, 2020.”
As Debbie, 53, watched ‘in horror’ as the daily death toll rose, she continues: “I realised that there would be many like me who lived alone and, due to lockdown restrictions, couldn’t be with their loved ones during one of the darkest and loneliest times in their life.
“My sister was able to be with my dad, and afterwards I worried about her. It was all so bewildering – and it was devastating. And it all felt so wrong.
“No-one should have to grieve alone.”
Debbie set up a small Facebook support group so those, like her, who were grieving could talk to others from the safety of their own homes without breaking lockdown regulations.
Three years on, that small support group has gone on to have 44 regional groups across the UK and more 5,000 members.
It has organised and hosted memorial events in cities across the UK, including London, Glasgow, Manchester, Hereford and Cardiff: “Which for very many of our bereaved has been the first time they have gathered with others in memory of their lost loved ones,” says Debbie, a mum-of-three – one daughter, Jodie, lives in Runcorn – who received the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Award for Voluntary Service, the last awards given out in The Queen’s name before her death.
On March 23 this year, Covid19FamiliesUK will host events in Glasgow, Swansea, Hereford, and Cardiff, but the main event will be the Mersey Memorial Ferry which will set off at 5pm.
“There will be 50 civic dignitaries, celebrities, and representatives of Marie Curie, lawyers from the Covid inquiry team, the Covid justice group, along with Alone Together and Yellow Hearts support groups.
“But we are inviting 150 people who have lost loved ones to join us, and scatter rose petals in remembrance of them.
“We have had huge support from Mersey Ferries, who have been amazing, Liverpool Community Foundation, and The Liverpool Pub in James Street where bereaved families are welcome to gather and collect tickets from 1pm, before we head over to the Pier Head.
“People have been so kind – and it means a lot to me, and to all our families.”