Michelle Rota has been hit hard by the coronavirus. Not only did she catch it herself, but also within a month she lost her brother to the flu and her father to COVID-19.
“The month of March has been the worst month of my life,” said Rota, who lives on Suncrest Road. “When we buried my brother, it was the first month when they were dealing with the coronavirus.”
Rota’s brother, Steven DiNubila of Revere, died just two days after his 40th birthday. Initially doctors thought he had the coronavirus, but later they said it was a strain of the flu.
On March 9, he died at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Services for DiNubila were held at Ruggiero’s Family Memorial Home in East Boston. Seventy-five of Rota's family members showed up to the two-hour visitation. Steven was cremated afterward.
A week later, Rota caught the coronavirus. She believes she may have gotten it at the funeral, because others who attended also tested positive.
“I had about 10 days of misery. My symptoms were a low-grade fever for two days and then it was days of the worst body aches and chills,” she said. “And my hips ached and then my chest started feeling discomfort.”
Later in March, Rota's father, 80-year-old Frank DiNublia, also of Revere, tested positive for COVID-19.
Ultimately he, too, was taken to Mass General, where he was quarantined and died April 1 — alone.
“I haven’t been able to mourn my father yet,” she said. “I couldn’t see him in the hospital. I couldn’t see him pass.”
Rota said her dad went straight from Mass General to cremation, a practice those in the funeral business say is taking place more frequently because of the pandemic.
“We started calling off the wakes when the state stopped gatherings of 15 people,” said Charles Breen, funeral director at John Breen Memorial Home in Lawrence.
“We have been doing direct cremations of people with the coronavirus and direct burials," he continued. "When we plan the burial, everything has been over the phone.”
Breen said families doing direct burials and cremations — as was done with Rota's father — are losing out on the ability to spend time with their loved ones.
That complicates the grieving process, he said.
“People are not having enough time to grieve because they are not having the calling hours and the traditional funerals,” he said. “Having the open casket to see people go, it’s almost a rite of passage.”
Many families, including Rota’s, plan to hold a celebration of life once things are safer.
But some funeral officials say celebrations of life are extra stressful for families because that means they’re going to grieve twice.
“It is a weird feeling or I think it’s a generational thing. With my parents, it was like we have to have the wake — you have to have the body there," she said.
"In retrospect, I need that.”