- Anna Sirota
Since being directed to shelter in place on March 16, I am mostly home alone. Home just happens to be an apartment on the top floor of a funeral home.
The chapels are on the main floor, and the office is on the second floor, just on the other side of my bedroom wall. It's been a calm winter. If there are no services, there's usually no one around, and I have the building to myself. My first two weeks home were really quiet. I actually wondered if they were going to reduce operating hours because the funeral home owner and the funeral director were hardly ever here.
When I'm in my bedroom, I sometimes hear noises on the other side of the wall coming from the office. I can hear the phone ring and the muffled voices of the staff when they take a call or speak to each other. Once the Covid 19 numbers started to climb, the phone began to ring more, the staff was spending more time here, and I started to realize that my home sanctuary was anything but. Now, the phone's constant ringing and the muffled voices on the other side have become my morning alarm clock.
From my bedroom window, I watch the endless activity. The funeral home owner and funeral director are often covered from head-to-toe in blue protective gear. I see a family coming to make arrangements for a loved one who has passed. I watch a truck pull in to drop-off a casket. I spy the owner and the livery driver speaking to each other from six feet away. And often, late at night, I am startled by the sounds of heavy doors' slamming as bodies are brought in from a hospital mortuary.
When I head downstairs to retrieve my mail, and I run into the owner or director, they tell me how difficult it has been. Of course, they are mostly getting Covid 19 calls, and the primary question is always "cause of death?" because the procedures are different. Covid 19 victims cannot be embalmed. No one wants to take a chance because no one knows for sure what we are dealing with. So, bodies are either directly buried or cremated, but the crematoriums are backed up. Sometimes they have to be at a cemetery at a specific early hour. If they are not, they'll be shut out for the day. The funeral home owner just hopes he doesn't have need for the refrigerated truck he has on hold.
Marilyn D. is a veteran media professional who often sidelines as a clown in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.