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A "message'' to the other side displayed on a building façade, Source: reveil.org

Flemish cities help us say a last goodbye to those we lost during lockdowns

Flemish cities help us say a last goodbye to those we lost during lockdowns

Several Belgian municipalities have joined Reveil – a movement willing to establish a different culture of mourning

The European continent has recently marked one year since the first coronavirus-induced lockdowns were imposed. For these twelve months, many of us lost loved ones without having the chance to meet them in their final moments or say goodbye properly.

To make the mourning process a little less painful, the Flemish non-profit Reveil has launched a special campaign, offering the chance to send one final message to a deceased relative. Four municipalities have already joined the efforts - Mechelen, Menen, Wevelgem and Deerlijk, and more are yet to do it.

What would you write if you only had one last message to your loved ones?

A special campaign in the Dutch-speaking region of Belgium aims to give a bit of comfort to everyone who has lost a friend or a relative in times of social isolation. For a period of two weeks, everyone willing to do so will be able to leave one final text message to the people they had lost.

Reveil will be collecting those messages and will be distributing them online at reveil.org. Furthermore, the team behind the initiative will be assisting participating municipalities to distribute the heart-warming visuals across Flanders (see the gallery above). Mechelen, for example, has committed to project the messages on the façade of the Town Hall building.

Messages can be sent in any language from today until 21 March 2021, on the specially created webpage for the campaign Boodschap aan de overkant (meaning: Messages to the other side).

Revolutionising mourning culture in Belgium (and in Europe)

Reveil launched in 2014, after musician Pieter Deknudt lost a friend unexpectedly and decided to pay tribute to him in a less traditional way – with a song. Joined by fellow mourners, he gradually started organising “reveils” for the forgotten graves in the cemetery, with small concerts, poetry and storytelling at sunset.

Gradually, other musicians and historians joined the movement, which attracted media attention and received support from several municipalities. As indicated on their website, today Reveil organises concerts on 1 November at more than 100 cemeteries and has the ambitions to guide the Flemish, and why not the European, mourning culture into the 21st century.

Throughout the year they collect stories about deceased loved ones in a Story Bank and publish the most beautiful texts in the annual Reveil Storybook.

In Belgium, when someone dies, no one seems to be able to find the words to commemorate them. It is a pretty common problem in Flanders.

After a friend of mine died a while ago, I thought it will be good to make something for him together. So, I wrote Robby a song and wanted to play it in the cemetery, but all my friends thought it was a terrible idea, while to me it seemed like the most natural thing to do.

Then I made some research only to find out that in the 50s or 60s people would sing gospels at cemeteries. Hence, in some ways, we have forgotten the beautiful ways that exist to celebrate death. Luckily, now about one-third of the cities in Flanders have music at the cemeteries. So, the movement is growing really fast,” explained the founder of Reveil Pieter Deknudt for TheMayor.EU.

Pieter is also ambitious enough to take his vision of mourning culture beyond Flanders and is therefore looking for local partners, such as cities, organisations or individuals in other countries, open to the idea.

If you want to explore alternative ways to speak about death and commemorate it, send Pieter an email at reveilvlaanderen@gmail.com

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