Honoring those who are lost: Morgue technician places daffodils on body bags of COVID-19 victims
Tanisha Brunson-Malone has performed autopsies for a living for 15 years. She is not a stranger to death. But the West Orange woman says that even she had become overwhelmed by the number of people dying of COVID-19 while alone.
Brunson-Malone is a forensic technician in the morgue at Hackensack University Medical Center. The hospital is using refrigerated trailers to hold the bodies of those who have died from the virus.
“We started off with one trailer and ended up with four. I’m accustomed to death. But I’ve never seen anything like this before,” she says.
She says that day after day, the deaths became to take their toll on her.
“These people were dying alone without their families, without services,” she says.
Brunson-Malone says that she decided that she had to do something to honor these people who died without their loved ones by their sides. She got permission from her boss to lay daffodils on the body bags.
“All because I was seeing so much death and I wanted to do something to make me feel better,” she says.
It has become her daily routine. Before work every day, she stops at Metropolitan Plant and Flower Exchange in Paramus. The staff knows her by name and knows that she is there for daffodils. She then places a single flower on each of the bags containing the people who died.
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The families of the deceased have taken note of what Brunson-Malone has done. Emails and letters of thanks have been pouring in.
“The calls, the emails have uplifted my spirits in ways these people can never imagine. Just as I’ve helped them in ways they could never imagine, they’ve helped me in the exact same way,” she says.
One letter was from three sisters who lost their mother at the hospital on April 5.
“The funeral home called and told us about the daffodil. One small flower gave us so much hope, even with all the horror around us,” the letter stated.
The sisters went on to say that their mother loved her garden and that when she died the only flowers that were in bloom were the daffodils. They say that they plan to plant more daffodils so that by this time next year, the woman’s yard will be filled with the flowers.
The letter contained one other line that sums it all up simply, “There are beautiful people in the world.”
Gov. Phil Murphy also honored Brunson-Malone at his press conference on Friday. Murphy praised her for “reminding us of our common humanity and ensuring those who are lost are not forgotten.”