Funeral arrangements and last rites during COVID pandemic
During this COVID pandemic things are happening very fast. We are losing our loved ones without much notice. Under normal circumstances arrangement for death and final rites are painful and difficult. Under the present circumstances due to the short notice and health considerations the process can be excruciatingly painful.
In New York state as of now, if someone dies from COVID related illness, the funeral arrangements have to be done following certain guidelines.
In general, there are 3 choices for funeral arrangements. Individual funeral homes might have their own additional restrictions.
1. Open casket during which the body has to be embalmed to prevent infections. The casket is opened briefly to allow identification and then closed immediately. No more than 10 people can attend. Attendance is limited to one hour. Cost is around $ 6500).
2. Closed casket during which the no body identification is done. If you request, the funeral home might take a digital picture and give it to you. You can have a service limited to 10 people and for one hour only. Cost is around $6200.
3. Direct cremation in which funeral home takes the body directly. There is no family involvement. Cost is around $2400. Most people are opting for this.
In all of these the funeral home takes the body from the hospital, and gets all the necessary paper work done.
No family is allowed in the crematorium. Some places might offer virtual cremation.
Things are changing daily. Some crematoria are backed up to a week.
Gita Chapter 8
Shanti Mantra Suddhatmaji
Hindu Funeral during COVID
Most Hindu priests are not available to perform final rites on COVID patients. (this is true of all other religions as well). There are things we can do during the funeral.
1. During the "virtual cremation" one can chant Bhagavad Gita Chapter 8, followed by shanti mantras.
2. During the first 13 days after death, one can chant Vishnu Sahasranama twice daily.
3. After all these restrictions are lifted, people are considering having a memorial with family and friends.
Smt. M.S. Subbulakshmi’s rendition of Vishnu Sahasranamam https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6TNE-i8ZvKs