The unfinished enterprise of a funeral deferred

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — It dawned on me just lately on the Nashville airport that the pandemic would not finish on the identical time for everyone. I had anticipated a trickle of vacationers, however the airport was jammed. Most individuals had masks, however social distancing wasn’t a factor.

I used to be flying to verify on my mom. Nonetheless, in my thoughts it could be awhile earlier than we might settle into no matter “regular” goes to seem like going ahead.

There’s numerous unfinished enterprise on the planet: graduations, anniversaries, and so forth. Pent-up demand has pushed airfares greater. Folks journey for various causes, however many have been transferring round freely for months now, vaccinated or not.

And there shall be funerals. Closure comes onerous when you’re not in a position to say goodbye in individual. That is the unfinished enterprise for my household.

My spouse’s father, Bernard Francis Lyons Jr., died of COVID simply earlier than Christmas. His life ended within the firm of nurses at a long-term care facility close to our home. We final spoke to him by video chat.

My spouse and her sister selected to not attempt to pull off a digital memorial, which appeared each logistically difficult and by some means not sufficient. I’m certain we’re not alone in feeling {that a} life as important as Bernie’s deserved higher than to be remembered as certainly one of greater than a half-million Individuals whose lives had been taken by this horrible affliction.

And so, later this 12 months, we’ll drive to his native New England to honor him.

Bernie Lyons was a working-class Irish-American from Rhode Island who earned a doctorate in psychology and spent his grownup life therapeutic troubled kids in Knoxville, Tennessee.

He was an elaborate storyteller, susceptible to exaggerating the accomplishments of the individuals he cared about. His tales grew extra spectacular with every telling. They arose from the accomplishments of his two daughters, from his love of opera, or from no matter eclectic discipline of examine he occurred to be studying about, from the intercourse lives of jellyfish to climate patterns in Antarctica.

His spouse, Anne, died six years earlier, and Bernie spent his final years in long-term care in Nashville as his reminiscence slipped. However his mild nature remained, and we would typically discover him with one other resident or a workers member, chatting amiably. Among the feminine residents had been candy on him.

My spouse and her sister will keep in mind Bernie most vividly on the seaside at Weekapaug, Rhode Island. He and Anne spent their summers there within the Dunes Trailer Park, a humble enclave tucked between seaside homes and resorts.

That seaside was a magical place for my spouse’s cousins, who descended each time we made the journey. We would bodysurf the waves collectively, play contact soccer on the seaside, and have dinner below the awning beside their trailer. Bernie presided over all of it, regaling us with tales, music and laughter. Typically we would play “Stump Uncle Bernie,” dreaming up essentially the most preposterous questions we might. He all the time had a solution, although it wasn’t essentially right.

It can really feel good to be collectively in any case this time, and the memorial shall be extra celebration than mourning. In some unspecified time in the future, probably at nightfall, we’ll go all the way down to the seaside collectively.

It is going to be cool there within the fall, however I prefer to assume the spirits of Bernie and Anne shall be there, too. It can take no feat of creativeness to see them huddled on the wind-weathered lifeguard stand, smoking and speaking quietly.

Bernie may pause for a second when he sees us. He may even marvel at how a lot all of us beloved him. After which he’ll flip again to Anne, telling tales that will or might not be true.

Virtually all of them shall be issues she has heard earlier than. And but they’ll nonetheless make her smile.


Virus Diary, an occasional characteristic, showcases the coronavirus pandemic via the eyes of Related Press journalists all over the world. Scott Stroud is Appalachia information editor for The Related Press, based mostly in Nashville. Observe him on Twitter at


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