The Funeral Director
The Funeral Director
Our funeral home has been around during two pandemics, which is crazy to think about — 1918 to 2020. It’s different times now.
Grief always comes with anger, but these families are angrier than normal.
In the beginning — and even still now — they couldn’t see their loved one, like in a nursing home. Nursing homes were locked down. So, if their loved one was close to death, they would get a phone call that said, “Your mom is really in bad shape right now, but you can’t come in because of COVID.” Families are very upset that they didn’t get to see their loved one for six months or so before all of a sudden, they passed away.
When it first started, we were told we should treat every case like they had AIDS, so we should wear all the PPE for every case, no matter what. We would still take care of the funeral, but there were limitations where only immediate family could come in, could view, and then we could go to the cemetery — we could only bring like 10 or so people. Churches weren’t open, so they couldn’t go to the church. Immediate families could range in size from two people to 35, so trying to tell families about the restrictions was difficult.
In the beginning, there was a gentleman who was 86 years old, and he was still taking care of himself. When COVID started in March, the family made sure to stay away, they didn’t go see him. The only thing he would do was go to the store and come home. Then, in June or July, all of a sudden, they rushed him to the hospital and he died. They were very angry.
I remember that one because there were five or six kids, and two of them tested positive. So we had to wait downstairs, they could come and no one else could be here. They had to bring their own pen to sign the book. So, they had to come and visit their father for a few moments and then leave. They couldn’t stay with the rest of the family.
The only thing that I would say to families when this all started is that if you’re not comfortable, then don’t have a viewing. Let people watch it on live stream.
I even have signs upstairs that say “Please refrain from hugging and kissing,” but that’s difficult for families. Even with the signs, you’d still see people try. They don’t want to, but then they see a loved one crying … and they start hugging.
This as-told-to interview is part of COVID in the Community, a series created by students in the Reporting classes at the Newhouse School in Spring 2021. COVID in the Community documents the experiences of Syracuse area residents living through this extraordinary time.