Karen Decker: My Sister's Funeral

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Funerals are among the services warped by the pandemic. When her beloved sister passed away, Karen Decker found herself managing a ceremony that defied every expectation.

My sister Mary died from breast cancer three weeks ago. She left behind a husband, and two young children. We were best friends and spoke every day. When Mary was hospitalized, I half-jokingly said, "You better not croak in the next couple of months because there can only be gatherings of 10 people."

Weeks later, I found myself at a funeral home, and everything I knew about funerals was upended. "Do you want a police escort?" they asked. I pictured a procession of cars with orange funeral stickers, but quickly did the math. Only three cars would be following the hearse. "Would you like a guest book?" I pictured an almost empty book and declined. "Would you like us to enlarge a photo of her for the service?" The sample on the wall looked enormous "Why so large?" we asked. "It’s so that people in the back can see." We quickly moved on.

Discovering that the priest, funeral director, and cemetery staff counted toward the 10 mourners just about pushed me over the edge. I morbidly joked, "If you tell me my sister counts, I’m going to scream."

The funeral home was sympathetic and offered to stream the service. After delivering her eulogy I asked my husband who had been relegated to the car during the service how he thought it went. There were buffering issues, and he missed most of the eulogy and all of the emotional slideshow.


Losing my sweet sister and watching our family bury her while several feet apart is not something I could have imagined. The stress of losing her was painful enough, and it was disorienting and lonely for those who could not gather at all.

But my sister recently said, "How you respond to situations is a choice." So, I choose gratitude. I had won the sibling lottery. The best part of her eulogy was not the number who heard it but the stories of her character and how she showed everyday how much she loved us. All the COVID limitations following her death mean absolutely nothing compared to one day of her beautiful life.

With a Perspective, I’m Karen Decker.

Karen Decker works for the City of Half Moon Bay as a senior management analyst.