When I was younger I would sit on my grandfather’s porch in Vero Beach at night and together we would watch storms hit Port Saint Lucie. Being from the Appalachia’s I wasn’t used to being able to see weather that far off due to the mountains. It was relaxing, and the whippoorwill adding a soundtrack to it made it even more so.
Looking back, I watched COVID like a distant storm.
It would come up on my Twitter timeline… doctors and nurses begging for help… journalists and healthcare whistleblowers suddenly disappearing, never to be heard from again… healthcare workers contracting the virus and dying… reports of Chinese social media closely moderating what could be said. I watched as China welding apartment buildings shut, as residents threw their pets off balconies because they might carry the virus, as reports surfaced that Chinese crematories were running around the clock.
Before long, the virus was in Italy. Italian newspapers that typically had 2-3 pages of obituaries were now printing 16-20 pages of obituaries. I knew it was only a matter of time before this virus was literally in my hands.
I work as a funeral director and in late February 2020 we handle the arrangements for our 1st victim of the virus. They were in their mid 50’s. The family opted for cremation. We had to do relatively little for the loved one, but it was official. The virus had been in our building.
We had kind of outgrown the size of our existing funeral home, and we knew space was an issue, so we constructed metal racks that would hold 3 loved ones each in a dignified manor. We couldn’t spread out and store people, so we went vertical.
By mid March we were in lockdown and the police were nowhere to be found. My 20 minute commute to work was being done in 10 minutes. I had the normally busy interstate roads of a major American city all to myself. During this time I found out that 116 mph was all my car could give to me.
My coworkers and I leaned on each other. Me and 3 other funeral directors & embalmers carried our business on our backs. We had double funerals for numerous couples who died days apart. We held phone arrangements with adult children of people who had died as they themselves laid in a hospital being treated for the virus. It was nothing to work a week full of 12 hour days.
The hardest and cruelest part of the ordeal was having to tell families that only 10 people could attend their loved one’s funeral and that included the preacher. This typically meant that pallbearers were cut out of the equation, so funeral directors and cemetery crew were now carrying 2-4 caskets to their final resting places each day.
Older folks with 20+ grandkids were having funerals with a majority of their family watching on their phones/tablets/laptops.
One family couldn’t determine who got to attend and who didn’t… so nobody came.
I conducted a funeral with a preacher speaking to a completely empty chapel as the family watched from home.
Instead of presenting the flag to a family member, the Army laid the flag on the retired General’s casket.
Eventually things slowly began to get better. Numbers went down… restrictions were lifted… police started giving tickets again. From mid May through mid July 2021, COVID victims had stopped. We’d been given reason to be hopeful.
But over the last 2 weeks the virus has re-emerged. As I type this, my last 4 intakes have been due to the virus.
I cannot tell you what the solution is, and I won’t preach my opinions to you. But I can confidently say I will go to my grave never forgiving China for what they’ve done to countless American families and the entire planet.
We watched as the storm rolled in, we had no idea the wreckage it would leave in its wake.