Death in a pandemic. What happens if you die during a time of coronavirus, or even from Covid-19? I got a call recently from a very active Successful Aging Expo attendee who was curious about what might happen.

First of all, avoid that dying thing if you can. Grab a good book, finally learn how to knit, watch some TV, practice some yoga moves, but stay put. There is a long ton of information on You Tube about how to do everything from baking to flower arranging. Even “how to search on YouTube” so that’s a good skill to acquire as we all practice social distancing. Keep up with your friends and family via email, Facetime, Skype, calling, even writing genuine letters. Social isolation isn’t good for our souls, but it’s good for our health right now.

But what if it’s just your time, and you die? According to Jeff Inman, a third-generation funeral director at Hobbs Funeral Home in South Portland, funeral homes are still operating in Maine, as are most cemeteries in Maine and elsewhere. After the appropriate paperwork, they will still do embalming, even if you die of Covid-19. You family can sign the documents via email, if they are in quarantine. Your family (in small groups) can attend a viewing and service, although you won’t be allowed to have the riotous funeral gathering you deserve.

death in a pandemicThey will still transport out-of-state, and you can still be interred in your family plot. Most cemeteries in Maine are still doing burials and allowing small services. Remember that it might be better for the family to gather later, when there are fewer travel restrictions. And you can certainly wait and do the whole thing later.

But what if you’re part of a mass casualty? What if a lot of people die?  The funeral homes are getting updates and guidelines and protocols daily, according to Jeff. They can deal with many people at once, and will assist families as they go step-by-step through the process. If Mainers are faced with that situation, we’ll just have to be calm and patient.

There are some things family can do, like planning the big gathering for later in the summer when people can travel again. You can be cremated, and held at home until your big send off. Jeff says Hobbs Funeral Home can even hold a body for an extended period of time if that is necessary. (He will be happy to answer questions. This isn’t a pitch for business! Call Jeff Inman at Hobbs Funeral Home at 207-799-4477.)

Like all life events, funerals will go better if planned. If you have specific desires, like poetry, scripture or readings, write it down. If you want particular music, note that. Make a document and let people know where it is. And most funeral parlors will help you plan your funeral, so that you get what you want. Jeff says they are doing that via phone and computer right at the moment instead of in person, but planning is still happening. If you’re concerned that no one will know what you want and it’s on your mind, now is the time to tell people!

As my dad would say, no one gets out of this world alive.

In this time of pandemic, we can all take special caution to try not to get sick, which leaves the health care system open for others.So walk around the block, play video chess, enjoy a good read, plan your garden. Even plan your funeral if you’ve always wanted a quiet time to do that! This will be over pretty soon, and we can gather again in good spirits.