Hundreds of hearts are on display sandwiched between the Manitoba legislature and the Assiniboine River trail in Winnipeg to honour the lives of the Manitobans who have died of COVID-19.
They include messages of condolence and memories written by loved ones who have had to say goodbye.
“We’ve lost over 870 Manitobans,” Posy Legge, a volunteer with Communities Not Cuts Manitoba, said. “And there really hasn’t been a public or community opportunity for mourning or for memorializing those who people have lost.”
Communities Not Cuts Manitoba placed the first 200 hearts along the river over Valentine’s Day weekend. Since then, many more signs have been added to the installation.
“It’s been kind of heartwarming and heartbreaking,” Legge said. “You know, we have a lot of people who come by. Mothers, grandfathers, sisters, brothers. Lots of people have lost someone to COVID-19 and it’s really lovely to connect with those people but you know it’s also really, really sad.”
Even for some Manitobans who haven’t personally been affected by deaths related to COVID-19, the gesture is an important way to show support for those who have.
“Every person that died matters whether they were, you know, a family member, or maybe had no family,” Margaret McKenty said, as she added a heart to the memorial Saturday. “Maybe they were homeless. Maybe they were vulnerable. I think what is happening here is very important Manitobans need to remember everyone who has been lost, whether their names are known to us or not.”
Communities Not Cuts Manitoba will be at the installation every Saturday for the rest of the winter. Legge is encouraging others to help expand the memorial with more hearts.
“We prefer recyclable materials,” Legge said. “Paper is good, cardboard is good. Bigger than the size of your hand so it shows, we can see it in the snow. And for putting it into the snow what’s best is a either wood or wire stick of some sort, that’s longer than your forearm.”
The signs will stay up along the river until the snow melts.