One year ago, when the COVID-19 pandemic was growing completely out of control, there was one given we absolutely certain of — the pages of The Observer would be filled with the names of many people who were dying.
One week, we had 25 obituaries. Twenty-five obituaries. Twenty-five human beings who most likely be alive had the pandemic not hit.
For many weeks, there weren’t as many — but they flowed in in a way we’d never before seen and haven’t seen since.
The heartbreak was immense.
The fear was great.
The loss was just unbearable.
And behind each of those deaths, there were funeral directors, from Mark Wiggins to Steven Thiele to Barbara Condon to Frank Mulligan III to so many others.
Their work was never so much in the “invisible spotlight.” They had to tell families they couldn’t have wakes. They had to tell families they couldn’t get access to cemeteries. They had to tell loved ones who were already in the worst situation of their lives they’d have to grieve differently — without a proper way to say goodbye.
We know this was not an easy task. But as they’ve done so often, they’ve handled their obligations with incredible professionalism and incredible empathy and compassion.
One year later, as life slowly returns to some sense of normalcy, we take this time to tip our caps to all the women and men who direct funerals.
In the last year, while their work has paramount, they’ve done it all in the background. So here’s to them all, for work that must be recognized for what it truly is in a world marred by a pandemic — and that is, heroic.
Learn more about the writer ...
Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.