By Bonnie DeShong
This COVID-19 pandemic has truly opened my eyes to many things. We have all given kudos to the amazing people who are on the front lines in dealing with this virus. I have applauded the nurses, doctors, and hospital staff; the firemen, police officers, and EMTs; and the grocery store staff, transportation workers, and so many others. However, it took a text from a good friend reaching out to check on my welfare that opened my eyes to the forgotten responder.
Henrietta Leak, the Matriarch of the Leak family, sent me a text checking on me and when I asked how she, Spencer Sr. and the family were holding up she told me that they were holding on, exhausted but doing their best. People forget that they are responders as well.
She is correct. Most people do not want to deal with the possible outcome of this pandemic and that lives are lost. I didn’t think of the many funeral directors and staff that have to take care of the deceased person, their families, even the hospitals, with dignity and respect but still have to make sure that they themselves are safe from COVID-19.
I immediately reached out to Spencer Leak, Jr., vice president and licensed funeral director of Leak and Sons Funeral Home, to get a handle on what they are going through during this time.
Spencer told me that the stress is high because with the rate of deaths, funeral homes are having to buy more equipment, and find space to handle the overflow. There is also the stress of making sure that the staff are protected from contracting the virus. New precautions and protocols had to be put in place.
He told me the story of a hospital that demanded that he immediately come and pick up someone who had passed; however, he was on his way to several different places to pick up others. The hospital demanded that he stop what he was doing and come to them or they would bad mouth his funeral home. He politely told them where to go.
He is not alone. Funeral homes across Cook County and beyond are going through the same thing.
Can you imagine what they go through trying to be there for a family but explaining that only 10 family members and friends can be in the building at a time and must wear masks? Or trying to plan a service over the phone without being able to speak in person or give a comforting pat on the shoulder or a hug? Having to take precautions going home to your family after handling the services at the mortuary?
We talked about how this is mentally affecting the Responders. I asked Spencer how he and his staff mentally handle the pressure. He told me it is hard. You take moments to shut down your mind and be with family, knowing that a call will be coming soon.
He told me that the Directors of other funeral homes such as Gatlings, Cage, Taylor, Doty Dash, and many more speak with one another and give encouragement. They are not only handling COVID-19 deaths but all other people who have made their transitions in other ways.
So, I have added a new group of Responders to my prayers, praise, hand claps, and appreciation, the men and women who are with us, in the end and bring peace to our families, the Funeral Directors and staff.
To hear my interview with Spencer Leak, Jr. visit: https://www.mixcloud.com/bonnieseye/bonnies-eye-conversation-with-spencer-leak-leaks-and-sons-the-forgotten-responders/.
Until next time, remain safe and keep your EYE to the sky.