‘My mother avoided technology all her life – but it saved our situation’

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‘My mother avoided technology all her life – but it saved our situation’

Sandra Waldman lost her mother, Edna Schneider, 94, from Barkingside, after she contracted Covid-19 while in hospital

Sandra Waldman with her late mother, Edna Schneider
Sandra Waldman with her late mother, Edna Schneider

My mother passed away last Thursday and we had the levoyah on Sunday. There was a hold-up, because we weren’t allowed to get the death certificate in person and then we didn’t know if there was going to be taharah (ritual washing of the body).

In the end, it was literally a case of taking her straight from the hospital to burial. We only found out a few hours beforehand whether the funeral would go ahead on Sunday and then arranged it online, via Zoom, where 179 people logged on.

My husband, myself and my two daughters were at the burial ground, as well as Rabbi Rafi Goodwin, of Chigwell and Hainault United Synagogue, but we all had to stand apart, separate from each other.

My mother was involved in the chevra kadisha for about 50 years, so she’s probably done more taharas than anybody ever. And yet, for her it was very different because there was nobody there for us.

She was always the one who would do keriah, the cutting of garments for mourners. She would do anything for other people. But for her, it wasn’t to be.

We all joke about the fact that she hated a fuss, so she arranged it in such a way that no one could make a fuss.

On the day, we had hailstones, followed by sunshine when we went over to the grave, and then hailstones again. It’s almost like she was there doing that and making sure that we didn’t have to hang around too long.

We had an online shiva last night and there were 79 different devices watching it. We would never have got 50 to 150 people into our house. My brother is in Israel, so it was good for him to be able to take part, given that he couldn’t come over here.

My mother never even had a mobile phone. We find it amusing that the one thing she avoided in life – technology – is the one thing that saved the situation.

Somebody said people come to a shiva, they shake hands with the mourner and then talk to everyone else.  But because of this, I’ve had so many phone calls and messages, so many stories that people have wanted to tell, from the four communities that we have been involved with.

If there is ever a blessing from our situation, it’s the fact that people can still reach out to us.


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