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Branksome Heights care home holds memorial service for those who died during pandemic

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In brilliant Spring sunshine the dark clouds of Covid were finally blown away during an afternoon memorial service at Branksome Heights care home, in Bournemouth.

Staff at the Kingsley Healthcare-run home wanted the chance to say a proper farewell to residents who have passed away during the last year.

They stood in the home’s new Peace Garden as home manager Lynne Petty read out the names of the residents who had died, pausing to allow each individual to be remembered in contemplative silence.

She said: “Few of our residents who died during the pandemic had Covid. However, it’s been a terribly cruel time for all families arranging funerals under Covid restrictions and it has meant our staff could not show their respects at the time in the way they would have liked.”

As part of the ceremony, maintenance man Andi Heal installed his sculpture of a butterfly – the symbol of hope and life.

And a time capsule capturing the emotions of the year of the pandemic was buried in a flower bed.

Home manager Lynne Petty said: “The capsule will remind people what the pandemic was like when it is dug up in 50 years.

“Items buried include information posters about Covid, pictures and letters from local schoolchildren, comments about Sir Captain Tom and a toilet roll to remind us of the supermarket shortages.”

Staff stood and clapped as a box containing the capsule was buried.

Poems were read out, including one by support worker Rory Crocker reflecting the way the pandemic had affected him.

It begins: “As I sharpen my pencil, the lead snaps,

“That feels like the whole year.

“Moments of galvanising, later dashed.”

And it thoughtfully ends:

“It is said that we die twice,

“Once our hearts stop beating,

“And again, when our names are spoken for the final time,

“And that’s how we’ll know those that have left us,

“Will never truly leave us.

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Ms Petty told the gathering it had been “an unprecedented time for all of us in the world of care”.

“We are now on the journey back to normality – or the new normal as it is often called,” she said.

“Covid has affected us all in many ways and our mental health as well as our physical recovery is going to be harder for some of us than others.

“It has made us all reach new levels of exhaustion, worry and emotional reactions but it has also shown us our power to carry on, our resilience and our ability to keep caring.”

She said their new Peace Garden would be a quiet place for staff and residents to sit and reflect on those they had lost.

A book of condolences has been opened in the home for people to write messages about the residents who have passed away.

Senior support worker Marina Labadze said: “The service was very sad but it felt so good to be able to say our goodbyes. It was very emotional to hear the names read out.”

Find out more about Branksome Heights residential care home in Bouremouth.

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