Belfast Cathedral has launched an initiative to commemorate those across Northern Ireland who have died from Covid-19 and from other causes this year, and to share personal stories from those impacted by the pandemic.
Through Lives Reflected, the Cathedral is inviting members of the public to pay their tribute to friends and loved ones in an online book of commemoration.
Lives Reflected is dedicated to reflecting on the lives, memories, sacrifices and efforts of everyone affected by the Covid-19 pandemic in the community.
People can upload their tribute to the Lives Reflected website as well as their honest real-life stories of 2020 to inspire positive messages of love, hope and kindness and to celebrate life going forward.
The Dean of Belfast, the Very Rev Stephen Forde, spoke about the significance of the project. “This initiative is to help people celebrate the lives of those who are special, whether reflecting on lives lost in our communities since the start of the current pandemic, or giving thanks for the inspiration and dedication of those who have carried us through its darkest days.”
Inspired by the St Paul’s Cathedral Remember Me campaign in London, the website is collating tributes and stories of people from all over Northern Ireland.
The online book of commemoration is open to everyone in the community irrespective of race, gender status, sexuality, age, denomination, locality, political representation etc.
Dean Forde invites all communities to share in offering hope to those who are in a place of grief. “Belfast Cathedral wants Lives Reflected to be a shared space where people can bring forward accounts that will help families and individuals on their journey through bereavement and towards personal healing,” he said.
The Cathedral hopes that the initiative is a continuous legacy of memories retold, which people will be able to treasure for years to come.
To accompany the launch of the initiative, Belfast Cathedral is providing a physical space for reflection inside St Anne’s, where people can see their online tribute realised on a digital display and light a candle for their loved one. Dean Forde sees the visual display as an opportunity for members of the public to visit Belfast Cathedral as a place to reflect on the challenges, sacrifices and loses that experienced in 2020.
“Through all the restrictions of these past months, it has been so difficult to gather our memories and share our stories of those we have loved and known, but lost,” the Dean said. “Lives Reflected allows us a place to share our memories and celebrate the best in the people we know. Lives Reflected can be a place of healing for our losses, and a promise of togetherness for the future.”
This website launch is the first stage of the initiative. The next phase of the campaign will be based on the uptake of messages shared on Lives Reflected, with selected entries chosen to feature on permanent panels displayed inside Belfast Cathedral.
This will be followed by a call for artists to create a unique piece of work which will be unveiled on March 23 2021 – marking the anniversary of Northern Ireland going into lockdown.
Lives Reflected is supported by the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister who value the need for a public space where people can collectively share their respects.
In a statement commending the project, First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill wrote: “In this unprecedented public health emergency, the initiative of Belfast Cathedral to offer the whole of our community an online place of remembering and reflection through Lives Reflected is to be warmly welcomed.
“By posting a treasured picture, and sharing a heartfelt tribute in words, the memory of each person named will be held and reflected. Although privately offered, each person remembered will be given a shared place online and within the space of Belfast Cathedral that will in a meaningful way contribute to the healing process.
“Lives Reflected will stand as a public testimony to all lives lost and act as a public reminder for families that their loved ones will forever be remembered.”
Bronagh O’Connell, who lost her parents Ignatius (89) and Mary (86) to coronavirus in the space of three days in April, is among those families who have taken up the opportunity to share a tribute to loved ones on the new website. Footballer Gareth McAuley is among those who has shared a personal story.
To make a dedication, share a personal story, or read the tributes that are already live on the Lives Reflected website, visit www.livesreflected.com.