by Andrea Bogard LeBlanc
If there’s something that we can agree upon it’s that every one of us, to some extent, has been negatively affected by Covid-19. Whether it was the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, or the loss of personal freedoms to which we were accustomed, we’re grateful to see a faint light at the end of the tunnel. It’s been a trying time that’s not yet quite over.
Just as we were cautiously optimistic about our future, we learned that we cannot let our guard down. At the time of this writing 49% of all Americans have received at least one dose of the vaccine, yet due to the highly transmissible Delta variant, cases are on the rise nationwide. Los Angeles County has re-instated a mandate requiring all residents to wear a mask while indoors, regardless of their vaccination status, and arguments for and against making vaccines mandatory are being discussed. Nothing in our personal or professional lives could have ever prepared us for what has been the most unimaginable time of our lives. It’s a frightening time, and for so many, one filled with anxiety.
Our shared experiences have made us stronger. While some areas of the country were hit far harder than others, and our experiences varied, the virus and its impact affected us all by forcing us to make changes in our day-to-day lives. For those with a chosen career path within the funeral industry the pandemic was, and still is, the ultimate test of strength and resolve. I personally have a new appreciation for funeral directors and funeral service workers, who are a truly dedicated, compassionate, and caring group of men and women who work in an industry which attracts those with such admirable qualities. They deserve to be celebrated.
As an owner of a supply company for businesses within the industry, I was immensely proud to witness the compassion, concern and dedication shown by so many of our funeral home customers throughout the country as well as from those we do business with globally. Early on unexpected packages arrived from China for my staff and their families after our manufacturers learned that we could not find any masks locally. When our customers were desperate for products that were in short supply our primary Indian supplier sent us air shipments to cover us until our containers arrived. We also worked together with other U.S. suppliers to source products for our mutual funeral home customers. Surprisingly, a broker’s former employee helped us secure a secondary trucking company to deliver a container to us from the port when ours was unable due to a worker shortage.
As an importer I’ve always been cognizant about issues in other countries and how they affect us here in the U.S. Fluctuation in the price of copper affects the price of brass products that we buy. A commonly harvested wood was temporarily added to an endangered species list which halted production and limited supplies to a handful of exporters who were eventually granted certification. And most recently shortages of oxygen have slowed production that utilizes welding in the manufacturing process. With so much up in the air between product shortages, shipping delays and imposed business closures by foreign governments, it was and still is a worrisome time. I was grateful that our business thrived, and that I was able to continue to support a full staff without any layoffs or reduction in hours. All of us were able to continue working safely in separate offices within the same building. I’m grateful for so many blessings.
The funeral industry found new ways to soldier on by working remotely, eliminating face-to-face meetings in favor of virtual meetings, and conducting online conferences and even offering virtual trade shows. For an industry that embraces tradition, technology was a lifeline offering so many different options to communicate with families who were unable to meet face-to-face to plan arrangements. From simple text messaging, to integrating ecommerce into an existing website, eliminating typewritten contracts in favor of computerized contracts, and even offering webcasting, technology was a godsend. An Australian friend of mine founded FuneralBookings.com, an online site for families seeking to “find, book and plan a funeral.” She had the foresight to understand how funeral planning was changing and was able to build a website and an app that offer services to consumers across Australia by partnering with a network of funeral homes and associated service providers. Her timing was perfect.
Through all the chaos we also realized that there were some positive outcomes, silver linings in the darkest of clouds. The trajectory of our lives has been altered, but we’ve learned to appreciate our families, our friends and especially our health.
Judith Gass, CEO/Partner, Niche HealthCare Strategic Advisors
“I’ve really been able to focus on the important things in my life, both in my personal life and in my business. I’m more aware of how precious life is and how important it is to spend time with the people I love.”
Melinda Nabor, Mental Health Clinical Supervisor, Los Angeles County
“We’ve learned that we can no longer take something for granted. On the other hand, we’ve become less tolerant of things in our lives which have no meaning or little value, and instead focus on what’s important, what it is that really matters. Personal relationships have been strengthened by connecting with people with whom we’ve chosen to spend time. The key will be to stay focused on staying healthy (mentally, physically and emotionally) until after this crisis has passed.”
What should we expect in the future? Is this the new normal? Possibly. Only time will tell, but the ability to adapt to change will continue to be a necessity going forward. As baby boomers age the more somber and traditional funerals may become a thing of the past, replaced with celebrations of lives which were pre-planned virtually, electronically signed, and then livestreamed to a distance audience. We’ll get through this.
July 19, 2021
Andrea Bogard LeBlanc is the founder of the Bogati Urn Company, a wholesale supply company begun in 2004 and located in Sarasota, FL. With a B.A. in Advertising and an A.S. in Nursing she has both a creative and empathetic approach to business and has grown her company from an idea to one of the leading urn suppliers within the funeral industry. She can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 941-751-3382.