My beloved grandfather died recently. He was 96 years old, and had been in a home for several years. When it came time for his funeral, his obituary asked that all social distancing and safety protocols be taken for those at risk. From experience with my family, we knew they wouldn’t be. So out of concern over COVID-19, we skipped my grandfather’s funeral.
This wasn’t an unexpected death. Suffering from mild dementia, my grandfather needed a walker, which he hated; he was depressed; COVID-19 prevented family visits. He rarely turned his phone on, and when he did, his hearing made calls frustrating and difficult. We missed him, but we hadn’t seen him in a long time.
Related video: New online funeral services due to coronavirus
They Say They Wanted COVID-19 Safety, But…
When the pandemic first started, my husband took a look at the exponential growth charts and knew we were in it for the long haul. We offered to let my mother move in with us. She refused. When she cooked some soup for us, and I went to pick it up, she acted as if I were crazy to ask for proper social distancing protocols: basic COVID-19 safety, since neither of us had as yet been quarantined for 14 days.
Then she lied to us about seeing friends without social distancing or masking— while she was seeing our family on a regular basis, and we thought she was maintaining strict social isolation as part of our quarantine pod.
When my husband called her on breaking basic COVID-19 safety precautions, she flew off the handle. He was very calm. He said that we wanted to see her again in two weeks, if she stayed quarantined. In the meantime, he begged her to Zoom with the kids.
We haven’t seen her since: though we offered to help her move, begged her to Zoom with our children, and contact us. In any form.
But Facebook showed me pictures of her and her bestie on the beach without social distancing. Again: basic COVID-19 safety protocol. When my mother’s sister visited, she asked if she could see my kids at an outdoor restaurant. We’d be eating. You can’t eat in a mask. Big. Fat. No. That’s a COVID-19 safety measure we won’t break.
So At My Grandfather’s Funeral…
I really don’t believe anyone would be observing COVID-19 safety protocol.
There would have been hugging. People would have come within six feet of me. There would be people without masks, or masks not covering their nose. I yell at people in the grocery store who come within six feet of me. Was I supposed to yell at little old ladies I’d known since I was born to get away from me and lecture them on COVID-19 safety? Was I supposed to say, “Look, you people are going to freaking die if you don’t social distance and wear a mask. And I love you.”
COVID-19 Safety Gets Really Sketchy In Church
My grandfather was Catholic. A funeral meant a funeral Mass, complete with Holy Communion. One priest, one hand, dropping Communion wafers into multiple people’s hands and hence touching multiple people’s hands — one after another. Are you shuddering yet? And you’ve got to take that mask off to receive Holy Communion. Then touch your mouth. None of this is practicing COVID-19 safety.
Moreover, The New York Times quotes Emory University infectious-disease expert Carlos del Rio as saying that churches are “an ideal setting for transmission. …You have a lot of people in a closed space. And they’re speaking loudly, they’re singing. All those things are exactly what you don’t want.” Superspreader events have been linked to church services in Charlotte, Maine, and Florida— in the past month alone.
Catholic services, for those who have not attended one, include lots of congregational responses and several hymns. Like, six or seven. And there’s singing too.
COVID-19 Safety Wouldn’t Happen In All The Lines
Funerals have a lot of lines. There’s the line at the visitation to go up and pay respects to the deceased. There’s the line at the funeral home snack stand, where other people may have touched the food you are touching. There’s the receiving line, where the bereaved are expected to stand to receive the condolences (hugs, handshakes, kisses on the cheek) of all those who attend. None of this is COVID-19 safety.
There’s the Communion line (and they wouldn’t social distance that.) And if they didn’t social distance it, or the lady behind me was up my butt with no mask, I couldn’t exactly turn around and say, “Lady. COVID-19 safety. People like you are the reason we still have a pandemic happening in this country.” Not that the Lord Jesus could come down in all His glory and drag me into that Communion line, what with the Biblical plague He’s seen fit to inflict upon us.
If I’m not laughing about this, I will break down.
Then There’s The Hugging
We all know COVID-19 safety does not include hugging.
Tell that to ancient Slovak ladies who grew up with your grandfather and came to your Baptism. You still have that blanket she knitted you! Guilty guilt guilt guilt! And the whole time, the whole time, your mom and your aunt and all your cousins are throwing you side-eye because they think you’re insane and liberal and overreacting about all this COVID-19 stuff, so can’t you just hug Mrs. So-and-So because she’s probably next in line to die, anyway?
Probably of COVID-19 she contracted at this funeral.
So We Skipped My Grandfather’s Funeral
And so the grandfather who loved me so much, who I loved, died. And we didn’t go. My mom probably thinks this is a lie because I didn’t see him for a long time before his death, but there are a lot of good reasons for that I’ll stand by. Just like she thinks I’m insane for my COVID-19 safety protocols, and I’ll stand by those.
The very worst? Maybe they were safe. Maybe the pressure from other people forced them to be safe in public, and not the way they treated my husband and me. But we couldn’t take the risk, so we stayed home. I hated it. But I couldn’t risk it. Numbers are soaring right now. My husband and I are high-risk. I’m staying home, thanks.
Even if that means missing something so important.