A Funeral Against All Wishes
When Dad got diagnosed with Leukemia on February 24th, I couldn’t imagine anything harder than the thought of losing him. What I didn’t know is, that because of the lockdown, we would have to say goodbye without the support of our friends and family. This would be immeasurably harder.
The night we found out about his diagnosis we decided on The University of Iowa Hospitals for treatment. His doctors told him any university would be a good idea but the proximity to family and the referral from many family & friends made it an easy choice. We drove him up two days later after a stop at one of his favorite places, Pizza Ranch.
He had some ups & downs…but really a LOT of ups! He was chosen to do an experimental treatment & that gave us hope. He responded well to the intense chemo & that gave us gratitude. His numbers started to drop (as expected) and that gave us perspective. We popped vitamins & washed our hands even before the Coronavirus shut down a single thing in the US. We were freaking out before freaking out was cool.
Then the hospitals started limiting visitors, but not on our floor. Oncology visitors were looked at as part of the patient's healing. They gave us masks & we washed our hands every time we touched our face. He was doing so incredibly well, we all walked up to the 8th floor and got some sun & fresh air on the patio.
Then they started to enforce the two visitors per patient rule. If there were more than two Dad would just put a mask & gloves on and head to the family waiting room with us. There were always more than two of us.
We’ve got a BIG loving family. We support each other as early & often as possible. So, when they locked it down to only one visitor per patient per calendar day, we were heartbroken. We weren’t about to take my mom away from him and we couldn’t even go visit with her in the cafeteria to give her a little support. Many were locked out of ever seeing my father in person alive again.
Dad died on Thursday, March 19th. It was three months to the day before his 70th birthday. The hardest days of our lives were made even more difficult because it seemed like the rules were changing every single day. First, the government was only allowing 50 people to a room, then it was 10 people per room, then 10 people per building. Our immediate family is more than 10, so we were worried we wouldn’t be able to be together at all.
When it came to planning a service, we spent the first hour & a half with the pastor & funeral director basically trying to reinvent the funeral. We had to figure out how to live stream to those who wanted to be present but couldn’t. It felt strange to be throwing this up on Facebook for all to see...but thank God for technology.
Here is what we ended up with.
8:30 am pallbearers meet at church to carry in casket, then exit the building
9:00 am Dad’s Immediate Family’s Visitation
9:30 am Group #1: Aunt Joy‘s family & Uncle Ron’s family
10:00 am Group #2: Aunt Verna’s family
10:30 am Group #3: Aunt Mic’s family
11:00 am Group #4: Aunt Janice’s family & mom's side
11:30 am Dad’s Immediate Family’s Funeral...pallbearers wait outside
12:00 pm Family exits the church, pallbearers enter to load casket.
No more than 10 people were allowed at the gravesite…but turns out there was no one there big enough to stop us.
I share this with the hope that maybe there’s someone out there that’s looking for some guidance. It’s not a perfect template. It’s nowhere close to what we needed. In fact, it’s downright inhumane to expect people to mourn and say goodbye without being able to hug & cry on each other’s shoulders.
My aunts and my uncle had to say goodbye to their brother & we couldn’t even be in the same room. Best friends, nieces & nephews, my mom’s family, & neighbors that were such a giant piece of this man’s life were shut out of a service that should’ve been a packed house. Instead, it looked like a rehearsal. A visitation that would’ve had a line five hours long was broken into four parts with a VIP list that couldn’t even fill the nearest bar top.
To say I’m angry would be an understatement. But I understand. I’m looking at the numbers, the reports from Italy, and the science on how these viruses spread. It’s scary to think our hospitals could be overrun & people won’t be able to get the help they need.
I hope you stay home & wash your hands so we can flatten the curve of this thing and so more people don’t have to go through what my family just did.
No one deserves this.