Ashes and grief leaving behind footprint of coronavirus pandemic

WION Web Team
Los Angeles, United States Published: Mar 05, 2021, 07:45 PM(IST)

In a room with dimmed lights, a few brooms and a cart with heat protective gear sits a cremation chamber behind golden doors. It's where Eddie Martinez has been spending a lot of time lately.

Story highlights

In January 2021, 60 cremations took place at Hollywood Forever Cemetry, compared to only 20 a year ago. In mid-January, the South Coast Air Quality Management District lifted air quality regulations that limited the number of cremations to protect public health

Ashes and grief are leaving behind footprints of the coronavirus pandemic as the rise in demand for funerals and cremation services throughout the pandemic has increased the workload of those involved in it.

In January 2021, 60 cremations took place at Hollywood Forever Cemetry, compared to only 20 a year ago. In mid-January, the South Coast Air Quality Management District lifted air quality regulations that limited the number of cremations to protect public health.

The workload comes with an emotional toll. In a room with dimmed lights, a few brooms and a cart with heat-protective gear sits a cremation chamber behind golden doors. It's where Eddie Martinez has been spending a lot of time lately.

Martinez's role as crematorium technician and funeral coordinator at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, a Los Angeles landmark and the resting place of thousands of Hollywood legends has increased tenfold.

"I used to be just a funeral coordinator, now I assist with cremations as well. I assist with casketing, with dressing," Martinez, 31, told Reuters. "And, we definitely we had to add more grounds crews, we had to add more burial times."

Before the pandemic, Martinez, who has worked at the cemetery for six years, said the team would do two cremations per day at most. The cremation process can takes up to six hours.

A few months ago, a second shift was added to conduct four cremations and the cemetery will soon be getting a second cremation chamber.

"It was definitely an eye-opener when it started hitting close to home, and to seeing actually, seeing a friend come to me, letting me know that her relatives in our care," Martinez said.

Martinez, a father of three, says he's had a fascination for death and mummies since he was a child, but in seeing it up close, he finds comfort.

"I feel like I'm doing my part in helping the families. I'm doing the part in helping this person, and try just avoid any negative thoughts," Martinez said as he was preparing body remains to be processed.

Signs with social distancing messages are displayed throughout the cemetery. But, Martinez says, it's difficult to tell people not to hug.

"Families emotions come over them and they just go for it and they hug each other, and we can't really do anything about it," he said. "We do what we can to enforce it, but some certain things are just out of our hands. We can't tell people to hold our emotions until they get home and tough it out until we're out of here."

Read in App