10 Reasons To Say Thank You To The Funeral Profession’s “Last Responders”

Dear Last Responders of the coronavirus pandemic,

I know that you probably haven’t heard the words “thank you” enough.

It’s likely that as a Last Responder, you’re often the last one that comes to mind when we think of the heroes of the pandemic.

Afterall, you do your work behind-the-scenes, and you don’t make a fuss about it. In fact, most folks are probably too sensitive to hear what you’ve been through during this pandemic.

Your workload has doubled, tripled, or even quadrupled. And your sleep has diminished by, well, we won’t even go there right now.

But your role in all of this? It remains as one of the most important ones of all. And for that, Last Responder, you deserve a thank you. 

Here are 10 reasons why we’re grateful for you (please feel free to add your reasons in the comments at the bottom of this post):


Reason #1: Thank you for your role as a last responder, which is sacred

“A last responder isn’t the person just responding last because they’re slow… they’re the only person to respond because they’re the only person who does what a last responder does: cater to, care for, and treat and dispose of dead human remains. That is something that’s very sacred, very ritualistic.” 

— Courtney Baloney, Treasures of Life Center For Life Services

Source: Mother Jones


Reason #2: Thank you for reinventing the wheel, on the fly, constantly

“We are, in many cases on many days, using the same room four or five times a day to handle what you would not normally call a wake, but what we’re calling a wake now,” he says. “The family will come in for an hour for an ID, or for a short visitation, a short service. We’ll go to the cemetery, we’ll wheel another casket into that room, and the next family will come.”

— John Sisto,  Sisto Funeral Home

Source: Yahoo



Reason #3: Thank you for your commitment to protecting the dead, even in times of complete chaos

“We took a sworn oath to protect the dead, this is what we do,” he said. “We’re the last responders. Our job is just as important as the first responders.”

— Tom Cheeseman, funeral director

Source: Chicago Sun Times


Reason #4: Thank you for carving out the courage to be an advocate for the dignity of the dead

“We all have our reasons for choosing this field… mine came from a history of abuse with no one willing to advocate for me. Now, I get to speak for people that no longer have a voice.”

 — Dr. Melissa Guzzetta, D.O., medical examiner

Source: Caitlin Ochs/Reuters via ABC News


Reason #5: Thank you for keeping families safe while also honoring their humanity

“This is just so unusual. You worry for your families, you worry for your communities (and) you worry for your staff”.

—  Lisa Groff, Groff Family Funeral and Cremation Services

Source: Lancaster Online


Reason #6: Thank you for creating new ways for families to see their loved ones 

“[With drive-thru funerals, families] don’t have to have physical contact with anybody. It has made it easier on the families… and more accommodating for whoever wants to come.”

— J.C. Hellum,  Hellum Funeral Home

Source: USA Today


Reason #7: Thank you for learning new technologies to adapt to families’ needs

“Everyone we offer live streaming to takes it… we’ve always tried to not be a cookie-cutter funeral home… they enjoy that satisfaction of being together,””

— Syd Thompson, Thompson Funeral Home and Cremation Services

Source: Powell Tribune


Reason #8: Thank you for creating spaces for grief to be witnessed 

“There’s something about the rituals being done the right way. [For some, virtual funerals] may feel wrong [or]  impersonal… But what’s worse is people’s grief not being witnessed.”

— Grief expert David Kessler 

Source: CNN


Reason #9: Thank you for putting your families first 

(and please, take care of yourself to avoid compassion fatigue!)

“Lily Sage Weinrieb photographs the remains of a Covid-19 victim for a virtual viewing before cremation. Between transferring remains from hospitals, viewings, paperwork, embalming, crematorium and cemetery runs, Lily works from 8am to midnight. She often sleeps on a couch in the funeral chapel. She is completely overwhelmed scheduling funerals for a month in advance and not able to do many aspects of her job like being able to console grieving relatives with a hug nor a touch and limiting numbers at viewing and burials. Despite these impediments, Lily attempts to find solutions such as video viewings and other ceremonies.”

— Andy Slavitt via Medium

Source: Medium


Reason #10: And finally, thank you for focusing on connection in a time of isolation

“People want to connect and they want to be supportive, and people are going to need to find creative ways to do that that are still safe for everybody.

— Preston McKee, Morris-Baker Funeral Home and Cremation Services’

Do you want to say thank you to the Last Responders who have showed up for you or your loved ones? Leave your thank yous in the comments below!

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  1. Arthur Hunt

    The world would not be safe if it wasn’t for the funeral industry!!! Thank You for all the men and women and their families for helping others. I have been in the funeral industry for 27 years not as a director but support staff.

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  3. Krystal Penrose

    Amen to that! Thanks Arthur.

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  5. Lorrie Penton

    As a staff member of a vault manufacturer, I watch our drivers deliver and set vaults, inter remains in all kinds of weather, put in long days, go home for just a few hours and come back and do it again tomorrow – 7 days a week. It is not a job just anyone wants to do and it is not an easy position to fill. Please remember to thank these men (and a few ladies who are doing this) when you are at the graveside. We rarely talk to the families, but our hearts are with you as we hear your stories and serve with “dignity and respect”.

  6. Krystal Penrose

    Thank you for sharing this Lorrie! Big thank yous to them.