Last week, a video posted by the media outlet Corriere Della Sera showed a convoy of military trucks transporting around 60 coffins from the overwhelmed morgues of Bergamo, Italy’s to cremation sites in other towns. New York where I currently reside has become the ‘new’ Bergamo. Fuck.
I work in Manhattan mostly, in the funeral industry, and things are not good. Currently, the concern about funerals is not that the bodies of the people who die from COVID-19 will transmit the virus as The Center for Disease Control says there is “currently no known risk associated with being in the same room at a funeral or visitation service with the body of someone who died of COVID-19,”. The problem is with living people. CDC advises against kissing, washing, shrouding or any form of intimate contact with dead bodies. This is where I come in with…not dead bodies but Johnny’s mom, Anna’s uncle, Bob’s granny, Jane’s sister. These bodies are all or at least WERE someBODY to someone. When COVID-19 kicked off here in the US I had my first little panic attack – what if my mom or dad or any of the people I love, were dying of this horrid virus and all I could do was Facetime them? It set me off, in public. Not pretty. I have already heard stories of people whose loved ones were dying and quarantined without so much as a handhold or a human touch before they died. Hospice care workers will frequently talk of how dying patients yearn to be touched, lovingly held or hugged in some form of comfort in there last hours or days and now we can’t even begin to offer that. Then to build on that incredible pain, once granny has passed away, we cannot even turn and comfort each other physically. No hand-holding, hugging, kissing, connection making.
The most isolated and alone time in the world suddenly thrown into gargantuan depths where your defiance of the rules could lead to more loss and heartbreak so to save a soul you must crush your own. And keep it crushed because once it comes to the funeral services, everything will be online or over the phone and more business and transaction like than ever before. This is not because funeral staff have no souls or are money-grabbing grim reapers as the public so often likes to portray but rather because they too are trying to save the lives of their families, and yours. Having funerals is first of all prohibited but second of all funeral homes see the value, as all medical professionals do, in the act of physical distance.
The funeral home is as committed as ever to helping families honor their loved ones in true, safe, meaningful ways. The funeral professionals themselves are risking their own safety every day as they complete the ‘essential work’ to keep countries moving. (see attached article for COVID-19 ways to have a ‘funeral/memorial’)
It is unprecedented times and those who are still working are doing their best to keep us safe and our loved ones out of the morgues and we can show our appreciation by not being idiotic and ‘chancing it’ but traveling or meeting in groups. Stay at home and do your part and save Johnny’s mom, Anna’s uncle, Bob’s granny, Jane’s sister and the rest.