What it's like to bury your own mother in the coronavirus panic

What follows is the account of the funeral of a mother who died on Sunday, March 8, from the coronavirus in Ashayer hospital in Khorramabad (west of Iran), as reported by a family member.

Apparently, she passed away at 2:30 A.M., but no one reported it until my sister called.  Sunday was an official holiday, and the hospital seemed not crowded.

Despite all the advice not to go to the hospital, my brother had to go through all the corridors that were quarantined for coronavirus patients to pay the bills.  For two or three days of hospitalization in the coronavirus quarantine department, on top of the amounts the hospital received from insurance, my brother had to pay extra, which they now say hospitals should not have charged!  But the most important violation and negligence is that you must pass in between patients infected by coronavirus to pay your bills.  He felt more like a guilty criminal than the victim of a catastrophe.

The ambulance-driver who came from the morgue did not get out of the car and said, "It has nothing to do with me.  Go and get the key."  My brother went with a letter he had received from the guardian and found a worker who was unhappy to open the morgue door.  The worker unlocked the door and stood away.  He said, "You must go in yourself and identify the corpse and put it in the ambulance."  It was clear that he was scared to come close.  He was right.  The ambulance driver, too.

We removed the corpse from a metal shelf and put it in a plastic casket and then into the ambulance.  No special arrangements, no special clothing or protective gear.  No one was overseeing us.  We had no choice.  We weren't ready for it at all.  The ambulance set off, and we headed to the funeral home.

There it was the same situation.  We took the corpse and put it in a refrigerator.  They put a tape on the refrigerator door and wrote the name of the deceased.  The man responsible for the morgue was also afraid of us.  He said we must dig a grave about ten feet deep.  He gave us the phone number of a gravedigger and said we must buy nine packs of lime powder from his store and spread it under and above the corpse when we placed it in the grave.  We must also buy two sets of protective clothing (each costing $28) from a place that he referred us to for the workers who will wash the corpse.  He warned us that if we did not buy the clothing, they would not even touch the corpse. 

My brother went to see the gravedigger.  He was asking $150, although he had a written rate on his wall of $30 as the price for a two-story grave.

The health department contacted us and asked about our relationship with the deceased and a few other irrelevant questions.  They said we should not have any ceremonies, and no more than two to three people should attend the burial ceremony.  I asked if they would send anyone for the burial.  Were there any special conditions?  He swore that he was not able to send anyone, and no one would come, and that was it!                                    

The next day, we took the corpse to the burial ground.  Not even the clergyman who usually performs the prayer was there.  They said to bring one yourself.  I got angry and told them I myself would perform the prayer.  That's what happened.  They also added a ridiculous extra charge for flimsy covers they provided that were so thin that when I opened the package, they tore apart.  We prayed with our brothers and sisters and the four or five who had finally come.  We placed the corpse ourselves in the grave.  My nephew and I were inside the grave, and the brothers and a few others helped from outside.  Again, no special tools.  No special clothing, no protective gear.  Nothing.

I did not remove the shroud from my mother's face.  What child could place the lime powder on his mother's face?  What a bleeding heart!  Finally, we had to do these things!  All that, without proper ceremony?  The burial ceremony is very important in Lor [Iranian minorities living mainly in western and southwestern Iran] culture.  Everyone who has seen one knows what went on with us!

Two days ago, the health department called several times and said that because you were in contact with the patient, you should stay in isolation yourselves, and our colleagues will come to perform a test on you.  After a week, they still didn't come.  We got in touch; we even went in person.  After many words and apologies, they finally said they had no means of testing or anything else.  Their only recommendation was to stay home.

We lost our mother on Sunday, March 8 at 2:30 A.M.  This is a report of what we endured in addition to losing our mother.  A nation that does not live well cannot die well.  There is no means of making a complaint.  All the authorities know the story, don't they?  To whom from whom and what to say?

A three-digit number has been announced to complain about the situation, which has long been promising to "make contact with the first free operator" and is constantly thankful for our patience!

The sadness of losing a mother is a pain that will never fade, and I won't say anything about it here, but perhaps this story will reach those responsible to make them not humiliate us more than this — to know that we are also human beings.

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