Arbor Memorial unveils floral tribute to local residents who died of COVID-19

Jason Kerr/Daily Herald. Arbor Memorial unveiled a special floral tribute at Prince Albert Memorial Gardens on Tuesday. The goal is to honour the more than 20,000 Canadians who have died of COVID-19, and help give their families, friends and co-workers a place to mourn and heal.

Staff members at Arbor Memorial wanted to create a safe place for residents to remember friends, co-workers, and family members who died of COVID-19.

On Tuesday, they unveiled the fruits of those efforts.

Staff members created a special floral tribute at the entrance to Prince Albert Memorial Gardens using red geraniums. Arbor Memorial branch manager Austin Atchison hopes the memorial honours those who died from the virus, while giving their loved ones a place to mourn, heal and remember.

“I hope they (friends and family) take a minute to think and reflect, and know that Arbor Memorial and Prince Albert Memorial Gardens is thinking of them,” Atchison said.

Arbor Memorial staff planted more than 20,000 red geraniums at 130 funeral homes and cemeteries across the country to honour Canada’s more than 20,000 COVID-19 victims. Atchison said they started work on the project in July after seeing first-hand how COVID restrictions made it difficult for friends and family members to grieve or say goodbye following a death.

The floral tribute is their way of providing residents with a place to gather, mourn, and begin to heal.

“Unfortunately throughout this pandemic, it’s been very tough on everyone,” Atchison explained. “This is just (giving) a little light.”

Jason Kerr/Daily Herald. Arbor Memorial branch manager Austin Atchison (left) and Don Cody (right) pose for a photo beside the special floral tribute on Tuesday.

The floral tribute is a personal one for many Arbor Memorial employees. Family Services Director Don Cody said it makes him think of his good friend Fred Sasakamoose, the trailblazing former NHLer who died last November five days after being hospitalized with COVID-19.

“What better honour can you give to an individual like that, then planting a nice, red flower for him,” Cody said. “It means a lot to me that we’re able to look back and reflect and say, ‘we’re so sad you passed away’ … but here, at least, we can say, ‘here’s a way to honour you.’”

Arbor Memorial has tried to remain flexible in working with families on ceremonies and funeral arrangements during the COVID-19 crisis. That’s likely to continue even after the outbreak ends.

Cody said the floral tribute to COVID victims was a tremendous idea, and he thanked Arbor Memorial and CEO David Scanlan for encouraging it.

“It’s worth our while to think of those people,” Cody explained. “After all, some of them don’t have many left to think about them, but we’re here, and we want to help in that regard.”

As of Sept. 21, 27,488 Canadians have died due to COVID-19.

@kerr_jas •