Reflecting Back On 2020

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A look back on the year that was from Paul Taylor, General Manager of Woodlawn Memorial Park


This was certainly a year for the history books. 2020 started off like every other ‘normal’ year, however, it took a sudden turn and the unexpected happened…a pandemic.

The beginning of 2020

My year started off like it always does at Sparkles in the Park for the New Year’s Eve firework show put on by the Rotary Club of Guelph. It entertains thousands of families in our community and the Rotary does such a great job.

Here at Woodlawn Memorial Park, we started off our year with a January Sale where we encouraged families looking for memorials to book an appointment with our Designer, Christina. Coming in during the cold (and slow) season saves families money and allows most memorials to be completed by the spring when monuments, markers, and plaques are delivered.

Every year, in the heart of winter, I leave for a vacation with my better half. We head to Florida where we relax, enjoy the sunshine, warm breeze, and company of good friends.

It was right around this time when the year began to take a shift. On our vacation, we began hearing about a virus that has been in Asia for a few months causing whole cities to shut down. We heard it was now on cruise ships, causing crews to lock people in their cabins until they could find ports that would allow them to dock. Then we heard that the virus came to North America and there were talks of the border shutting down — and possible lockdowns. At this point, we headed back home…quickly.

How we are managing the pandemic 

We are a cemetery and we have a crematorium on site, which makes us an essential service, but we needed to adjust how we provided our services to keep our team and our families as safe as possible.

We followed (and continue to follow) directions from the Bereavement Authority of Ontario, along with Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health. We implemented a soft ‘lockdown’ at our office by making by appointment only meetings with at-need families. On top of limiting the amount of families in our offices, we wear masks, and sanitize all the surfaces after each meeting.

Our grounds staff are keeping safe while completing their duties and tasks at our beautiful park, making it safe for everyone to be able to attend and enjoy. Being safe is their primary focus while interacting with each other, and with families during burials services. These things may seem minor but they take time to implement and enforce as we try to keep everyone safe.

Having empathy for families

Let’s take a moment to think about how families using our services might be feeling and how they are affected by the limitations that have been put in place. Losing a loved one is hard to go through at the best of times. But now, in the middle of a pandemic, it’s even harder as the bereaved are limited to how many people can attend a service.

Close family and friends may not be able to get the closure they want, especially if their loved one was in a home or hospital prior to their passing.

We are here to help families and we try our best to make this part of their journey a little bit easier in any way we can, while following the procedures and guidelines that are in place for everyone’s safety.

Missing out on the events we love

Unfortunately, we had to cancel most of our yearly events that attract many families from across our community. To name a few of the events missed this year, there was:

  • Kisses to Heaven (Mother’s Day)
  • Classic Car Night (Father’s Day)
  • Remembrance Day Service

We cancelled these events with a heavy heart but it was necessary to keep everyone safe.

The new “normal”

As the months pass, what was once odd and not the norm has suddenly become second nature to most. Keeping your distance, wearing a mask while out in public places, washing your hands thoroughly, and staying home if you’re not feeling well are givens.

As our community works together to keep each other safe, we’re happy that we can keep our grounds open for all to enjoy. 

Our regular walkers, new visitors, and those looking to learn a bit of history while walking our 4 km of roads continue to be welcomed. There is plenty of space to keep a comfortable distance from one another. Throughout this pandemic, our roads have seen as many as 50 walkers an hour, and everyone was able to keep their distance.

As time passes and the cases lower, we will eventually be given the “Ok!” to gather with close family and friends again — but until then, we will continue to keep our protocols in place for the sake of our community.

Farewell 2020

While I walk the grounds, I am stopped by visitors and thanked for the effort that our team has taken to keep our park open as much as we could. I believe the beauty of Woodlawn Memorial Park — which I have walked through for the past 43 years — has been discovered by many new visitors during 2020. Many more people are staying closer to home and discovering their own backyard.

Another bit of good news is that your generous donations to the Charitable Arbour Fund have increased, allowing new trees to be planted!

With most of the year behind us and the vaccine being delivered to Canada, I am beginning to think there will be a future where COVID-19 isn’t in every other news report.

We hope your visits to Woodlawn Memorial Park will help bring back your happy memories of the loved ones we have lost. May their memories live on in our hearts forever and become even stronger.

As 2020 comes to an end and we enter 2021, we can only wish for health and happiness to all. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Cheers to a New Year.

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