Los Angeles lady whose mother died of Covid-19 needed to maintain the funeral in a parking zone
Juliana Jimenez Sesma stared at her mother’s coffin. Her mother’s face was made up, and so was her hair. Her expression was frozen.
While Sesma mourned, mariachi music cut through the silence. “I would rather sleep than be awake because it hurts that you are not here,” the band said in Spanish.
The lyrics of the song show how Sesma has felt since she lost her mother and stepfather to coronavirus.
She buried her mother in South Los Angeles last week. But she had to say goodbye in a parking lot.
There the coffin was placed in a corner under a hinged canopy – with flower arrangements and photos all around. The chairs were spaced apart in the parking lots.
It was the only safe place for people in grief to socially distance themselves that Calvary Chapel – near the Sesma family in South LA – had available.
And with funeral homes backed up from the numerous Covid-19 deaths in Los Angeles, Sesma said she and her brother would have to wait three weeks to hold a funeral.
“I was waiting to bury her, it felt like torture,” Sesma told CNN. “We were worried about what she would look like.”
She said she was concerned that her mother’s body would become distorted and begin to decompose before she could see her face for the last time.
At the funeral, Sesma stood up to pray. Her faith, she said, is the only thing that inspires her after such a loss.
Sesma’s family signed Covid in December
Sesma said she left her job as a real estate agent because of the coronavirus pandemic to live with her mother and stepfather.
Her mother, a retired machinist, had a lung disease. Her stepfather was a craftsman with asthma and diabetes. Her brother lived next door with his young family.
In December, she said they had all signed Covid-19. Her parents became so sick they had to be admitted to the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital in South LA.
The state-of-the-art hospital, in which many patients stay, is an oasis in the desert in the black and Latin American district, which has long been a health care provider.
“Our emergency department was designed to treat 40 to 45,000 patients a year. In 2019 – before Covid – we saw 110,000 patients a year,” said the hospital’s CEO Dr. Elaine Batchlor. “This is mainly due to the lack of access to quality care in the community.”
Now, with coronavirus, there are even more patients everywhere, she said.
Los Angeles reported 12,617 new cases on Monday, bringing the total number of cases in the county to 932,697 as the county nears the grim milestone of 1 million cases. Another 137 new deaths were reported, bringing the total death toll to 12,387.
“Don’t let that be you”
The Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital typically has a capacity of 135 beds but currently treats more than 200 people inside, according to Batchlor. More than 60% are coronavirus patients.
Batchlor said the hospital is receiving some of the sickest patients in the city and state.
“Diabetes is three times more common here than in the rest of California. Mortality is 72 percent higher. Life expectancy is 10 years shorter here than in the rest of the state,” said Batchlor. “All of this has to do with the fact that this is an underserved and underserved community.”
And that means what happened to the Sesma family is the norm rather than the exception.
“We have been unfortunate to see this disease run through families and all too often taking in multiple members of a single family,” said Dr. Jason Prasso, who treated both Sesma’s mother and stepfather.
The pain of loss for the doctors and nurses sits on their shoulders like a dull weight that doesn’t get away. Losing someone to Covid is devastating for families.
“We lost both my mother and stepfather to coronavirus,” said Sesma. “Don’t let that be you. If you really love your loved ones, don’t let that be you. Continue to take all precautions, take extra precautions, exaggerate if you have to.”