A year after COVID-19 stopped our country in its tracks, wreaking havoc on health care, education, the economy and the very foundation of our social connections, we are finally seeing the promise of light after a long darkness. The months of isolation, restrictions and anxiety are starting to ease as higher vaccination and lower infection rates promise to loosen the virus’ grip and let us return to life as it was pre-pandemic. But for many people, that promise offers no solace as they grieve the loss of family and friends who departed over the past year and tragically left this earth too soon. One local business wants those people to know their loved ones are remembered, and is coordinating an event to honor and memorialize those who were unable to be celebrated due to pandemic related restrictions.

Sara Sauls, owner of Joe Momma’s Kitchen in Marietta, decided to take matters into her own hands to host a memorial for the community. The community-wide service will take place in East Muskingum Park on Saturday, May 29th from 2:00 to 4:00 pm.

“We decided to host a Memorial Service because we’ve heard several stories from folks we know who have lost someone in the last year but were unable to celebrate their life,” said Sauls. “We wanted to do something special where our entire community can embrace the folks who were unable to grieve in our most traditional way.”

Members of the community who have lost a loved one over the past year to COVID-19 will have an opportunity to have a temporary memorial installed in the park.

“The plan is to have tripods set up throughout the park with photos and celebrations of life,” said Sauls. “It is our hope that we can separate each individual memorial with enough space in between to allow families enough room to gather around their families’ memorial.”

This is important for our community as a whole because it feels like we’ve all worked together over the last year to help each other, and we need to remember to honor those we’ve lost together, too.”

Sara Sauls

“I think this is important to do because even though it’s difficult to talk about, death is a part of our lives. And grieving is an important process for those who’ve lost a loved one,” she said. “This is important for our community as a whole because it feels like we’ve all worked together over the last year to help each other, and we need to remember to honor those we’ve lost together, too.”

Sauls has invited local artists to perform a few songs during the event and is partnering with local florists to design and build a biodegradable float that members of the community can move a flower to, before sending it down the river at the end of the service.

“As always, the community members and businesses in Marietta are stepping up to the plate to help us with this project,” said Sauls. “My friend, Jennifer, is helping to plan and organize the event, and we’ve had several businesses reach out to offer help already with more meetings scheduled to nail down support.” Sauls said they are currently seeking additional flower donations and local vocalists to participate.

“We sincerely hope this will provide families who were unable to have a funeral for their loved one an opportunity to reflect and remember with each other. We’d love to see everyone come together to support the families who missed out on such an important part of the grieving process,” she said.

Sauls wants the community to know that the memorial is not just for those who have been lost to COVID-19. The service is for anyone who was unable to have a funeral because of COVID-19 restrictions placed on social gatherings.

“We also want the community to know that we’re open to ideas and we welcome help from those interested in lending a hand,” she said. “We hope this will provide a way for our community to embrace those who may have had to shoulder the burden of loss on their own.”

Those interested in honoring their loved one during the service are invited to complete this form to share their loved one’s photo and eulogy or obituary on or before May 14th.