Adam Smith is Funeral Director at Shalom Memorial Chapel, the only independent Jewish funeral home in Rhode Island. When asked what the reality of the pandemic meant to him, he said, “it was heartbreaking”, and that he doesn’t want anyone to die before their time. This disease is taking many individuals much too early.
When asked about some difficulties he’s faced during Covid-19, he stated that at first the Health Department forgot to view morticians as front-line workers, so Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) was hard to come by. Eventually, the health department fixed the oversight, and funeral homes were added to the list of groups allowed to buy PPE.
Adam is a member of the Rhode Island Funeral Directors Association Disaster Preparedness Committee. The members have had several meetings and talks about steps necessary to cope with the uptick of Covid-19 deaths. One of the most difficult discussions for Adam was early on, back in March of 2020, when the committee was asked by the Rhode Island Department of Health to address a worst-case-scenario situation, and come up with ideas of where to store the decedents in a respectful and practical manner.
The hardest part of this for him has been the very real grief when someone is taken too early, or when an elderly person in a Nursing Home dies and the family members hadn’t been able to visit or be present when their loved one passed. Despite all that’s going on, Adam is encouraged when he sees families emotionally come together. They help each other out.
Adam loves his work, and says that if he weren’t doing this, he doesn’t know what else he would do. He likes helping people. However, he’s found it difficult to find a good balance between work and family, never knowing when the cell phone might ring night or day. At Shalom Memorial Chapel, they personalize each funeral. Every person is different, and thus people have different expectations on how things should go. Because of Covid-19 and the limits the Health Department has put on the number of people allowed to congregate to grieve together, many of the funerals, if the family want it, are now conducted via Zoom at no extra charge. Also, the ceremony is recorded, and there’s a link so those, unable to attend, can view the funeral.
Adam says that the wonderful support of his family keeps him going, also he’s very heartened that the community is trusting Shalom Memorial Chapel to do the right thing for their loved ones. He likes interacting with the families, and he likes hearing their stories. Sometimes these are stories that they’ve never shared with anyone else. Some families of the deceased keep in touch, and let him know when a new baby is born, and keep him up to date on family events.
Adam finds hope in the rolling out of the vaccine. One of the lessons he’s learned during the challenges of the pandemic, and through over 20 years of being a funeral director is that it’s important for people to plan for the future, but also to live in the moment. One ought to focus on family and friends and live in the now. Adam enjoys spending time with his family. He has meaningful discussions with his wife, Andrea Allgood (a Hebrew School teacher at Temple Torat Yisrael), and his 17 year old son, who is learning to drive. Adam also relaxes while playing with his 4 year old as they make puzzles together, and spend time reading.
Adam also likes Zooming the Friday night Shabbat services, and seeing everyone there as well being part of the Jewish community.