hospital patient holding hand of family member
90% of adults agree end-of-life discussions should be had, but only 26% have had those conversations.

Readers of The Houston Chronicle, one of the country’s largest newspapers, might have noticed their Sunday edition was a bit on the heavy side this past Sunday. About 43 pages heavier, to be exact.

On Sunday, Texas’ second-largest paper by circulation printed a standalone 43-page obituary column, reporting about 900 deaths. 

The obituary stands as a stark – and startling – reminder that the COVID-19 pandemic is still surging across the United States. And Texas has been one of the states hit hardest by the deadly virus. According to the CDC, Texas has over 250,000 cases and 3,000+ total deaths.

The United States has had over 3 million confirmed COVID cases, and 135,000 fatalities since the virus first broke out. Estimates predict that we’ll reach 200,000 fatalities by election day in November.

It certainly can’t be said that we don’t live in extraordinary times – even if we’d all prefer to be in a quieter period in history. By the time this is all through, nearly every American will have been affected by COVID in one way or another.

But there is a particularly cruel aspect of this pandemic which the families of those affected know all too well: the inability to properly say goodbye and find closure.

Closure Denied

With coronavirus cases on the rise again, many more people will be forced to reckon with the tragic reality that saying goodbye to loved ones is simply too dangerous right now.

COVID-19 patients must be isolated in the hospital in special protective wards to avoid spreading the disease to others. Family members have often been denied access to these wards for safety reasons – meaning that when a loved one is dying, the family's only chance at saying goodbye is via a cellphone held up to the patient's ear by a nurse. 

When someone passes away, we are used to gathering together and celebrating their life with a funeral or memorial service. But that avenue for closure has also been cut off too, as it would only take one sick attendee to spread the disease throughout the gathering and potentially kill even more people. 

Remembrance in the Time of COVID-19

There is something particularly devastating about being forced to stay apart in a time when all we want to do is come together.

Our disturbing "new normal" brings with it a unique set of challenges. How can we safely and effectively pay homage to those lost during the pandemic? How can we foster remembrance and properly honor the lives and stories of the victims?

Some have posited technology as a solution to these issues, and indeed, a Zoom memorial is far better than none at all – but it has limitations. Could there be a better (yet still safe) option?

7 comments

  1. William Waugh's Avatar William Waugh

    Good time to test drive the latest holographic projectors. Preserve 3d imaging (video) of our loved ones engaging in thier favorite activities. We are not at "Star Trek" level of holographic imaging. But, what we got will keep our memories "alive". ....

  1. T Kosse`'s Avatar T Kosse`

    I come from a Catholic family and I have attendant many funerals both Catholic and non -Catholic. In a Catholic family we first have the Vigil, which a prayer service is usually held the day before the funeral mass it much like a wake, but we pray and recite the Rosary, ( Sometime there Eulogies said, but most often not). Then the next day there the funeral mass,(Reguiem Mass) which is the traditional funeral ceremony. Which is follow by the rite of committal which usually held at the burial site. After the burial all those that came to the funeral usually gather back at the church for a post-funeral reception where it offer an opportunity for friends and family to talk and remember the deceased. But mostly to see friends and family members, they haven't seen in a long time and catch up on what been happening in each other life and of course the food. Then later the close family members usually gather at the deceased family house just to visit and talk and more food. Plus you have people who stop by to bring comfort food and to visit and talk for days after the funeral.

  1. T Kosse`'s Avatar T Kosse`

    All I can say that it will a huge adjustment for everyone. And it seem to me without that close connection of family and friends there beside you, it will made it seem all the more cold and impersonal. Which I think it might made it harder on some people in their grieving process. So hopefully this "new norm" that we find ourselves in will be over eventually and we can get back to some semblance of ours "old norm".

  1. Brien's Avatar Brien

    The only thing that comes to my mind is the sorrow that I feel for those that have had to go through this. It is so very painful to grieve, but to not even be allowed to be with a passing loved one would be torture in my family. I grieve for those that endure this pain. We have patted ourselves on the back for our great technology, but we forgot that mother nature does not give one damn about how smart we think we are. My best hopes and wishes for those that are now suffering. I ask all ULC members to take a moment and send loving thoughts to these families. Peace.

  1. Delphine S. Pillar's Avatar Delphine S. Pillar

    Even though I feel compassion for those families, the reality is most people die alone in my experience. It has become fairly common where people put in nursing homes die without loved ones present. It is the result mainly of the denial of death and avoidance of the subject in the culture of the USA. We separate our elderly, when in the past people died at home and lived in extended family groups. We need to recognize and accept the truth of life. I think it is important to have these conversations with loved ones before the actual event, which we all know is coming for everyone at one point or another. To not make the subject taboo and realize it is a natural part of life. It is a very difficult thing for some families and even more for the patient, but we must also remember that God is always a real and present help in our time of need and we are never truly alone. In those final moments we can have a deep peace, love and acceptance from the PRESENCE, THE FATHER, OR THE ONE. God Bless, Metta, or Namaste.

  1. The Rev. William C, Millhouse's Avatar The Rev. William C, Millhouse

    I favor the custom of having a "party" to celebrate the life of the individual who has passed. This is usually held after the heaviest of the mourning is over. The last one that I attended involved a computer created collection of videos and messages from the life of the loved one. It could be as simple as a collage of photos from the loved one's life.

  1. Richard Lee Cornell's Avatar Richard Lee Cornell

    There is a series of podcast called, This Week in Virology" I started watching/ hearing in January of this year. The first couple of secession nothing was mention about the COVID-19 virus. By # 584 people were interested. I trust people who work in the field from those who have worthless theories. It seems that a lot of people in the CDC turned into this series. I have pick up from Trump as he has mention but not directly about this series.

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