The Last Responders...
A couple of weeks ago I made a trip to Walgreen's. It’s one of my favorite stores to shop. I don’t buy enough of anything to worry about the higher prices they charge for peanut butter or teabags. Everything is generally more expensive than Stop & Shop or Big Y. I don’t care. I MAN shop.
At my age, the most valuable commodity to me is time. I am content spending 25 cents more per item that wasting a half-hour of time walking through a big box store pushing a carriage trying to find the right aisle selling York Peppermint Patties.
Anyway...I was sitting in my car reviewing my bill to see if I had received any hidden discounts by using my Walgreen Card. I may have saved 15 cents for my loyalty and efforts shopping there. As I looked around, I noticed someone standing alongside my car at the driver’s side window. I lowered the window and was pleasantly surprised to see my old and dear friend Bill Iovanne. Bill and I go back to when we both lived in Hamden as next door neighbors more that 35 years ago.
Bill is a Funeral Director by profession and successfully operates the Iovanne Funeral Home in New Haven, CT. Our initial conversation was about family. You know... “How ya' doin’?” We eventually talked about Covid 19. I asked him a lot of questions which lasted well over an hour. (In Fred’s world that’s about average). When we finished talking and Bill left for home, I began thinking about the Corona Virus and how it affected him and his business. Bill may have gotten in the last word in our conversation but I made certain that I got the last thought.
All of us have seen the number of lawn signs and placards praising our First Responders such as nurses, doctors or any staff member who works in a medical facility that treat patients with that deadly virus. I cannot not give enough thanks and praise to them for all of their good work. God bless them all. We are so fortunate to have them in our midst. We all are grateful that many more of patients recover than die. That is the cycle for First Responders. Inn the end there is some joy.
After my conversation will Bill, it got me thinking about his role in dealing with Covid 19. He’s not a First Responder. Instead... he is the Last Responder. He is the one who gets those victims who did not recover from the virus...did not make it home, did not respond to treatment or the use of a ventilator. He is the one who still needed to be protected from the virus while preparing a body for burial.
He is the one who meets with the grief-stricken families and tries to provide comfort and consolation about a family member who passed while family members were not allowed to see or talk with their loved one before he/she died. Not even a chance to simply say... “I Love You.”
All of this mounting grief and sadness now became the responsibility of Funeral Directors who faced a never ending stream of new families shedding the same tears over the same story for the same reason. There were no happy endings. Not one. Only tears and broken hearts. Lots of sadness.
My friend Bill and his staff have feelings and emotions like the rest of us. To believe, “Well...that’s his job” would be an understatement. To see and console families grieving over the loss of a loved one caused by an invisible virus places a monumental strain on everyone’s emotions. There is no preaching hope for these families. Hope died at the hospital along with their loved one.
Because of this virus, families were unable to memorialize their loved one as they might have done. They were not permitted to have a wake or a church service. At best, they were allowed to have an interment service at the grave site. Mourners were not allowed. Social distancing was the rule. There was neither time nor opportunity for closure. N-E-X-T!
All of this weighed heavily on funeral homes knowing full well that this same exact thing was going to repeat itself over and over again until the deadly virus finally subsided. This scenario probably occurred more than once in the same day at the Iovanne Funeral Home.
Today I would like to acknowledge those whom I refer to as The Last Responders. They are the men and women who operate funeral homes. They are the last ones to meet and console a grieving family. They are the last ones to respectfully handle the remains and interment of the deceased. They are the last ones to be considered as an integral part of the healing process.
Thank you Bill Iovanne, your staff and all those dedicated Last Responders in your profession who received much less recognition than you all truly deserve.