News, Culture & Society

Overwhelmed Maryland crematorium no longer allows viewings for bereaved families

In the past three weeks the owners of a crematorium in Maryland have seen an increase of 30% as a result of the coronavirus.

As the pandemic has slowly taken hold, so has the number of deaths increased and the numbers of bodies arriving for a final farewell.

The owners of Maryland Cremation services, Dorota Marshall and her husband Sean, say that because of the risks, they can no longer allow viewings of their loves ones before they are finally cremated.  

Shannon Killoran whispers to her father over a cardboard casket containing his body during an identification viewing at the Maryland Cremation services in Millersville, Maryland

During an identification viewing Shannon Killoran leaves a picture of herself and her brother on a cardboard casket as she says a final farewell to her father

During an identification viewing Shannon Killoran leaves a picture of herself and her brother on a cardboard casket as she says a final farewell to her father

Bodies are prepared at the Maryland Cremation services in Millersville, Maryland

Bodies are prepared at the Maryland Cremation services in Millersville, Maryland

Owner Dorota Marshall stands in the parking lot wearing a mask as she prepares to pass an urn of ashes to a family member picking them up outside the office

Owner Dorota Marshall stands in the parking lot wearing a mask as she prepares to pass an urn of ashes to a family member picking them up outside the office

Dorota Marshall wheels a gurney to a viewing room for a family to identify a loved one

Dorota Marshall wheels a gurney to a viewing room for a family to identify a loved one

Instead, instead of a funeral ceremony the crematorium only allows brief identification visits whereby families can identify bodies before returning to pick up the ashes of their loved ones, outside the office whilst remaining in their cars. 

The bodies continue to come and demand is so high the Marshall’s business has even agreed to help out a New York crematorium, which is completely backed up with overflow.

With coronavirus victims dying in quarantine and in hospitals, more and more are being left to be buried or cremated away from grieving relatives.

The infection has struck ancient rituals to honor the dead and comfort the bereaved, which have had to be cut short or abandoned for fear of spreading the virus further.

Transporter Morgan Dean-McMillan wheels in a gurney with a new body to the crematorium

Transporter Morgan Dean-McMillan wheels in a gurney with a new body to the crematorium

Owner Sean Marshall (L) and transporter Morgan Dean-McMillan prepare to put the body of a COVID-19 victim in a cardboard casket

Owner Sean Marshall (L) and transporter Morgan Dean-McMillan prepare to put the body of a COVID-19 victim in a cardboard casket

Dorota looks on before weighing a body bag containing the body of a COVID-19 victim

Dorota looks on before weighing a body bag containing the body of a COVID-19 victim

Owners Dorota Marshall and her husband Sean take multiple calls as people and hospitals try to arrange pickups for the deceased at the Maryland Cremation services in Maryland

Owners Dorota Marshall and her husband Sean take multiple calls as people and hospitals try to arrange pickups for the deceased at the Maryland Cremation services in Maryland

Owner Dorota Marshall (L) disinfects a body bag containing the body of a COVID-19 victim on a gurney at Maryland Cremation services

Owner Dorota Marshall (L) disinfects a body bag containing the body of a COVID-19 victim on a gurney at Maryland Cremation services

Owner Sean Marshall (C) speaks with crematorium supervisor Ginger Rowley (R) and crematorium operator Edward Pugh (L) about their capacity to handle an overflow of new cases from New York

Owner Sean Marshall (C) speaks with crematorium supervisor Ginger Rowley (R) and crematorium operator Edward Pugh (L) about their capacity to handle an overflow of new cases from New York

The impact of the coronavirus is now reshaping many aspects of death, from the practicalities of handling infected bodies to meeting the spiritual and emotional needs of those left behind.

The practices seen at the Maryland funeral home and crematorium are those which have been adopted in many other countries.   

Families are instead opting for small private ceremonies and encouraging others to express their condolences online.

Open casket funerals are out for any victim of coronavirus, and families are advised not to kiss the deceased.

Crematorium supervisor Ginger Rowley checks names on cardboard caskets containing bodies to be cremated

Crematorium supervisor Ginger Rowley checks names on cardboard caskets containing bodies to be cremated

In the past three weeks, Maryland Cremation services, have seen an estimated increase of 30% more cases because of the novel coronavirus pandemic

In the past three weeks, Maryland Cremation services, have seen an estimated increase of 30% more cases because of the novel coronavirus pandemic

Because of the pandemic and the risks, they can no longer allow viewings, but only identification visits, while families must pick up the ashes outside the office in their cars

Because of the pandemic and the risks, they can no longer allow viewings, but only identification visits, while families must pick up the ashes outside the office in their cars

The crematorium is overwhelmed with bodies that are coming in due to coronavirus

The crematorium is overwhelmed with bodies that are coming in due to coronavirus

The crematorium recently agreed to see if they could help a New York counterpart, which is backed up with overflow, with cremations

The crematorium recently agreed to see if they could help a New York counterpart, which is backed up with overflow, with cremations

Crematorium operator Edward Pugh controls the temperature on an incinerator

Crematorium operator Edward Pugh controls the temperature on an incinerator

Edward Pugh cleans out an incinerator before cremating a cardboard casket containing the body of a deceased person at the crematorium

Edward Pugh cleans out an incinerator before cremating a cardboard casket containing the body of a deceased person at the crematorium

In Ireland, the health authority has advised mortuary workers to put face masks on dead bodies to reduce even the minor risk of infection, just as in the U.S. 

In Italy, a funeral company has decided to use video links to allow quarantined families to watch a priest bless the deceased.

And in South Korea, fear of the virus has caused such a drop in the number of mourners that funeral caterers are now struggling for business.

There is little time for ceremony in hard-hit Italian cities such as Bergamo, northeast of Milan, where the mortuaries are full and the crematorium is working around the clock. 

Crematorium operator Edward Pugh watches the temperature on an incinerator before cremating a cardboard casket containing the body of a deceased person

Crematorium operator Edward Pugh watches the temperature on an incinerator before cremating a cardboard casket containing the body of a deceased person

Crematorium operator Edward Pugh closes the door of the incinerator after moving a cardboard casket containing the body of a deceased person inside

Crematorium operator Edward Pugh closes the door of the incinerator after moving a cardboard casket containing the body of a deceased person inside

Mortician/Funeral director Bryan Clayton inspects names on a row of boxes, one reading "COVID+", containing the bodies of deceased that are laid across a table

Mortician/Funeral director Bryan Clayton inspects names on a row of boxes, one reading “COVID+”, containing the bodies of deceased that are laid across a table

A ban on gatherings has shattered the vital rituals that help us grieve, said Andy Langford, the chief operating officer of Cruse Bereavement Care, a British charity providing free care and counseling to those in grief.

‘Funerals allow a community to come together, express emotion, talk about that person and formally say goodbye,’ he said.

‘When you feel you have no control over how you can grieve, and over how you can experience those last moments with someone, that can complicate how you grieve and make you feel worse,’ he said.

Sean Marshall prepares to put a cardboard coffin containing the body of a deceased person on a gurney

Sean Marshall prepares to put a cardboard coffin containing the body of a deceased person on a gurney

A row of boxes, one reading "COVID+", containing the bodies of the deceased

A row of boxes, one reading “COVID+”, containing the bodies of the deceased

Transporter Morgan Dean-McMillan points to a cause of death on a document

Transporter Morgan Dean-McMillan points to a cause of death on a document

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk