Amherst memorial offers way to honor those lost to COVID-19

  • Hand-made memorials created for people who died of COVID-19 hang at Contemplating COVID: A Remembrance, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020, a temporary memorial garden on Maplewood Drive in Amherst. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • A message created by at 2-year-old hangs Contemplating COVID: A Remembrance, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020, a temporary memorial garden on Maplewood Drive in Amherst. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Hand-made memorials created for people who died of COVID-19 hang at Contemplating COVID: A Remembrance, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020, a temporary memorial garden on Maplewood Drive in Amherst. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Deb Gorlin, left, sits on a bench Wednesday beside Margaret Burggren, center, and Ruth Levine at “Contemplating COVID: Naming the Lost,” a memorial garden on Maplewood Drive in Amherst they created to remember lives lost to COVID-19. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • A pair of hand-made memorials created for people who died of COVID-19 hang at Contemplating COVID: A Remembrance, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020, a temporary memorial garden on Maplewood Drive in Amherst. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Deb Gorlin, from left, Ruth Levine and Margaret Burggren stand in Contemplating COVID: A Remembrance, a temporary memorial garden they created to remember lives lost to COVID-19, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020 on Maplewood Drive in Amherst. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 9/9/2020 7:20:28 PM
Modified: 9/9/2020 7:20:18 PM

AMHERST — Three months after losing her father to COVID-19, Flávia Terra Cunha will be paying tribute to his memory by adding his name to a temporary memorial in an Amherst neighborhood.

“It’s great people are trying to find ways to honor the deceased,” says Cunha, an Amherst resident who, due to restrictions caused by the pandemic, has been unable to gather with her family for a memorial service for her father, José Luiz Terra Cunha. He died in Brazil on June 10.

“I think he would be happy to know people took the time to honor him and other victims who haven’t been recognized by the United States government or the government of Brazil,” Cunha said.

The memorial, created by residents on Maplewood Drive and Maplewood Circle, is open to anyone seeking to meditate on the lives of loved ones lost to COVID-19.

“Contemplating COVID: Naming the Lost,” is an act of mourning for those who have suffered personal losses due to COVID-19 or related causes, said Deb Gorlin, who initiated the memorial as part of a nationwide network.

“I think people like it and are touched by it,” Gorlin said.

So far, the memorial, erected, in a well-shaded spot in the quiet neighborhood, consists of the names of deceased written on square and heart-shaped pieces of white muslin. These are then attached, by small clothespins, alongside colorful fabric strips on twine strung between trees.

Gorlin got together with neighbors Ruth Levine and Margaret Burggren to create the space that begins with a short stone-lined path to two rustic benches. There, visitors are greeted by a small sign explaining that people, after sanitizing their hands, can grab a piece of muslin, attached to a tree by fabric, and write the names of deceased or thoughts using the magic markers held in another fabric pocket.

Guests are also welcome to bring drawings, photos, flowers, stones and other objects to place in the interactive memorial, where an Arcosanti bell — from an experimental community in Arizona — sounds during a breeze.

Gorlin said she was inspired by a college friend, now a folklorist living in New York, who posted about the project on Facebook. Known as Labor of Mourning, the project will be a way to both name and pay respects to the nearly 200,000 United States citizens, and others across the globe, who have died since the beginning of the pandemic.

“I thought this was really something that we could do,” Gorlin said, adding that even though COVID-19 has had an impact on everyone, she hasn’t been affected personally by anyone who has died from or battled the illness. “There’s a feeling of helplessness and impotence in the face of what is going on.”

Burggren said giving people the opportunity to write down the names of people who have passed due to COVID-19 rang true to her, and she hopes others will feel similarly. “We think this will be something special for them,” Burggren said.

Levine said the idea of wrapping twines can be a universal expression to remember those who have passed. “I’ve thought of this as a contemplative space,” Levine said.

The project has been publicized on the Nextdoor online group, as well as social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram. While it was originally supposed to be taken down after Friday, the neighbors may leave the memorial up for another week so more individuals have an opportunity to venture to the site.

Though the memorial will be fleeting, Gorlin said she believes it will be meaningful for anyone who participates.

“The idea is to commemorate people who otherwise would not be commemorated,” Gorlin said. “The hope is that people can contemplate here.”




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