Arts & Life, Coronavirus, Features

Our experience: funerals in the time of coronavirus

“Our experience” is a series where Daily Forty-Niner reporters document their unique and nuanced experiences during this unprecedented time.

I passed my Mami Chela, my grandma, on my way to my great-grandmother’s coffin. 

We stood six-feet apart from each other and cried until it felt like we could no longer stand. 

From six-feet away I told my Mami Chela how much I loved her, how sorry I was that this happened. I can’t wait until all this is over to finally be able to hug her.  

My great-grandmother, Sara Urena Rubio, was buried in a graveyard with only five of her eight daughters present. The rest of us got to watch through Facebook Live. 

I will never take someone’s hug for granted ever again. Coronavirus has stripped so many families of their ability to mourn in a time when we are all feeling lonely. 

I long to embrace my family and am looking forward to the day when I can be free of quarantine. 

I hadn’t seen my great-grandmother for about a month before she passed. 

COVID-19 was creeping closer and closer to home, so my family and I took the precautions we needed to. We wanted to protect my 89-year-old great-grandmother who is high risk due to her age and weak lungs. 

The family agreed to not make our weekly visits to her and wait until the virus had passed.

I was half-awake trying to get up for work when my parents told me my great-grandmother had passed away at 5 a.m. while I was sleeping. 

My first thought was that I needed to see her. I needed to look at her one last time and give her a proper goodbye. 

My aunt Sari, who was her caretaker for the last months of her life, said she couldn’t have visitors. She didn’t want a bunch of people mourning over the body of my great-grandmother while coronavirus was around. I was furious, I channeled all my grief into screaming at my parents about how unfair it was that I wouldn’t be able to see her body one last time, screaming that I needed to see her in order to cope. 

All the yelling and screaming did no good. The family started a Zoom call where we got to hear everyone’s cries and wails through the laptop speakers. 

My mother and I got to try and guide my cousin on how to properly close my great-grandmother’s jaw with one of her scarfs. Family members prayed the rosary until we all got to stare at the computer screen and watch my great-grandmother’s lifeless body get taken away by the funeral home four-hours later. 

As days passed, the family called every funeral home and cemetery in our area to see if we would be able to hold a viewing or a funeral. The answer every time was “no.” 

No one would hold a funeral of more than five people in the time of COVID-19. 

So, for the sake of our own hearts, we held a secret viewing at a ranch located in the middle of nowhere. We scheduled 15-minute time slots so families who were quarantined together could say goodbye to my great-grandmother. 

Everyone arrived and waited in their cars. I  just watched  people walk up to my great-grandmother’s coffin and spend their last 15-minutes with her body. I was grateful for the opportunity and the “safe” risk we were all taking as a family who loved their matriarch with all their hearts. 

That day turned out to be the most painful moment of my life. 

Although I got to see my great-grandma one last time, I was unable to hold or comfort the rest of my family.

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Number of COVID-19 cases in Long Beach

What to know about COVID-19

Common symptoms:

● Cough                   ● Fever

● Tiredness            ● Shortness of breath

● Chills                      ● Shaking

● Loss of taste      ● Loss of smell

● Muscle pain        ● Headache

● Sore throat

Symptoms can begin to present one to 14 days after initial exposure, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

How is it transmitted?

● Close contact with someone, such as shaking hands or hugging.

● Contact with droplets from a sneeze or cough.

● Touching of eyes, mouth or nose with dirty hands.

Are you at risk?

● Have you traveled to an affected area within the past two weeks?

● Have you had close contact with someone who is infected?

If yes to either, and you begin to present symptoms, call your doctor and ask to be tested. 


There is currently no treatment for COVID-19, but the CDC recommends measures to contain the spread of the virus.

● Self-isolate; avoid contact with others including pets; only leave your house for food or medical attention.

● Wear a face mask.

● Wash your hands often and for at least 20 seconds; sanitizer must contain over 60% alcohol to be effective.

● Clean “high-touch” areas every day.  

● Maintain a six-foot distance from other individuals; abide by “social distancing” recommendations. 

● Avoid gatherings with more than nine people. 

 Alert health officials if you think you have COVID-19; monitor your symptoms.

Number of COVID-19 deaths in Long Beach

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