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Memphis funeral homes barely keeping up with the spike of COVID-19 deaths

Some are having to wait weeks after a loved one dies to bury them.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — In the month of August, funeral homes across Memphis had nearly double the demand for services related to COVID-19 deaths. Funeral homes worked around the clock so families did not have to wait to grieve the loss of their loved one to COVID-19 or any other death. 

A. Marquis Lacey, the director of operations at R.S. Lewis and Sons funeral home, said they have not had this many COVID -19 deaths in a single month throughout the pandemic. 

"This go-around, like I said, we didn’t have any COVID  cases for almost two and a half months and this go-around we didn’t have the opportunity to gradually move and gravitate into a high number," Lacey said. "We were just hit with those numbers."

R.S. Lewis funeral home will typically have an average of 40 to 45 funerals per month, but in August they had at least 72. Lacey said it can sometimes be a few weeks after your loved one dies when you can bury them. 

"I look forward to the day when our peak season plummets and hits rock bottom," Lacey said. "Where we’re going to have some days where we say, 'we haven’t picked up a body in five or six days.' I look forward to that day."

Ron Taylor at N.H. Owens and Son funeral home said with limited capacity allowed for viewings, families cannot grieve how they normally would. 

"It’s tougher because in some instances the parents and families are able to plan for folks that may have a catastrophic illness such as cancer or diabetes or something that they can get some finality out of," Taylor said. "With the COVID -19 and the Delta variant, there’s no planning."

They have also seen an unsettling number of married couples and children dying from the virus. Taylor and Lacey encourage everyone to get vaccinated and continue to take this pandemic seriously. 

"Please don’t wait until it hits your family," Taylor said. "It’s too late."