Ben Jackson, a farmer from the NSW town of Guyra, felt helpless when his much-loved aunt died in Queensland and border closures meant he couldn’t attend her funeral.
“Losing someone in these times is pretty tricky,” Mr Jackson said.
“I sort of felt a bit helpless, a bit stumped about how I could show my affection and love for my dear aunty Deb.”
He came up with a touching way to honour her by getting his flock of sheep to form the shape of a love heart on his farm.
The sheep art has struck a chord with Australians who have had to come to terms with saying goodbye from afar as the COVID-19 pandemic keeps families separated. Border closures due to outbreaks mean people in NSW, ACT and Victoria are generally locked out of all other jurisdictions. Tens of thousands of people have viewed his video on Twitter after it was first shared by Mr Jackson on his Instagram page on Tuesday.
The video was played at Deb Cowdery’s funeral alongside one of her favourite songs, Bridge Over Troubled Water. Mr Jackson creates his sheep art by grain feeding the animals in specific patterns and, as luck would have it, he had some ewes almost ready for lambing that needed extra feed.
“I thought, I’ll do a bit of sheep art for my aunty Deb,” he said.
It seemed a particularly fitting tribute because she had always loved visiting the farm and hearing what he was getting up to, including his latest sheep creations.“I just hope that when I did it, Debbie took one eye off from having a yarn with her loved ones up there and looked down and saw my heart for her,” he said.
When the video played at her funeral, a torrent of tears came streaming down his face.
Mr Jackson said the true difficulty of being separated from family by COVID-19 only hit home after his aunt’s death.
“You hear about people doing it tough and not being able to say cheerio to their loved ones and not being able to be there or have that type of connection that we’re used to,” Mr Jackson said.
“You think that’s tragic, but it can’t happen to me.
“I’m not a grief expert but certainly, I was completely and utterly unprepared for how it’s affected me, the family and others. Of course there are so many people who are doing it tough in Australia and the world.”
A teenager who rescued a bumblebee says it is now her loyal pet - sleeping by her bed and even following her around to shops and bowling alley.
Lacey Shillinglaw, 13, from Coventry, spotted the large bumblebee lying in the road while walking her dog two weeks ago.
She scooped up the bee, named Betty, noticing it had a crumpled wing, and tried to put it in a safer spot, on some flowers in a nearby park.
But the bee didn't want to leave, and now follows Lucy everywhere. The pair even share snacks including jammy dodgers, with Betty eating the middle while Lacey nibbles at the edges. After first picking her up, Betty refused to stay put, buzzing back over to Lacey and crawling all over her.
After an hour she gave up and headed home with the bee perched on her shoulder. Now Betty is always by her side in the house - sleeping on her bedside table - and has followed her to the shops and on a family trip to the bowling alley.
Lacey said: 'Betty is totally amazing - I'll remember this forever.
'I thought she would fly off on the first day but she just never did. 'I'm so happy and I just love spending my time with her.
'She's so fluffy and I love our friendship.'
Betty hitched her first ride when Lacey found the insect on 7th August, while walking with her mum, Laura Pashley, 35.
On the way home Betty perched on Lacey's glasses as she went into her local shop to buy milk - shocking other shoppers.
Lacey now feeds Betty sugar water, honey, and strawberry jam, as well as Haribo Tangfastics. Lacey takes her bee into the garden to feast on flower nectar, but as soon as the teen goes back inside, Betty is right beside her.
At night Lacey tucks Betty up in a little pot beside her bed, and while there is no lid, the animal stays put until morning.
During the day Betty nestles on the back of Lacey's neck, or inside her sleeve, between buzzes around the living room.
Betty apparently even liked a stroke between the wings, but steers clear of the rest of the family; car salesman dad Lee , 35, and brother Vinnie, nine and sister Betsey-blu, five. The insect, whose wing is now recovered, went bowling with Lacey and 14 other members of her family earlier this month.
She stayed on Lacey throughout both games - for two-and-a-half hours.
Mum Laura said: 'She absolutely loves her.
'It's completely lovely and also bonkers.
'Betty wanders all over her. including her face, and her glasses, and even in between her toes.
'She's on her 90 per cent of the time during the day. It's so beautiful - just gorgeous.
'I can't believe Lacey isn't scared.
'Bumblebees sting, and like wasps, they can repeatedly sting you without being hurt or dying like honeybees do.
'Lacey's hair is down to her bum, and Betty climbs in it like some kind of jungle.
'We have all the doors open a lot and she's just never gone - I haven't the foggiest why.'
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