BRYAN, TX — As deaths tolls across the state, and country, continue to rise, funeral homes, are reaching their limits doing all they can to keep bodies, out of freezers.
Currently, California is seeing death rates as they’ve never seen before, earlier this month, a Southern California funeral home began asking for volunteer embalmers.
“We were informed of a funeral home there, that ordinarily, they are a small funeral home, they only require one embalmer. But because of the pandemic now, they have so many loved ones coming into their funeral home, but they are not able to care for them quick enough so what they needed was an embalmer,” says Amanda Valenzuela Gittelman, Managing Partner of Hillier Funeral Homes.
Glenn Duhon, a funeral director for Hillier, has been in California for the last 10 days, helping, the funeral home catch up with their embalming.
“We’re not prepared for something like this, but thankfully, it doesn’t happen often, but when it does, we pitch in, and help out, even though we are busy back home, nothing compares to this,” Duhon shared.
By law, an individual must be embalmed within 24 hours of dying. Since January 1st, the Southern California funeral home has received over 250 individuals, alone, making embalming even more critical at a time like this.
“Embalming allows us to have that person outside of refrigeration. Once a person has been embalmed, they do not have to be refrigerated,” says Gittelman.
As of Thursday, the state of California recorded 737 new deaths, making the total 38,961 since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Duhon says, while things are busy in Brazos County, they don’t compare to what he is experiencing firsthand in California.
“This is overwhelming, and to the point, where they haven’t had a day off since Thanksgiving. So I helped to relieve that, and that’s rewarding," says Duhon.
Back here at home, Hillier funeral directors say, they are starting to see longer delays, as Brazos County's COVID-19, and non-coronavirus deaths, continue to rise.
“Our services are being scheduled about a week, to a week and a half out. We just don’t have space, the staff, the availability to schedule any sooner,” says Gittleman.
While this is an unimaginable time for funeral directors, Duhon says, assisting with embalming is important for the families that have recently lost loved ones.
“Everyone understands here that a funeral is not going to happen for a month, just because of the backlog, but that doesn’t mean someone needs to be in a cooler trailer for that month. They need to be taken care of quicker, and with respect."
Duhon returns from Southern California on Friday, Jan 29.