Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Dignified Deaths Defy Disaster

It's been more than six months since the last of several large hurricanes hit Florida, and hurricane deaths are now soaring! You may be wondering why, since it isn't even hurricane season yet. Well the figures have just come out on how many hurricane-related burials are being paid for by FEMA. Turns out they are paying for quite a few more than the recorded deaths. According to official reports FEMA is paying for 315 hurricane-related funerals, even though the state of Florida has recorded only 123 hurricane-related deaths. So that is 212 more funerals than bodies! (Of course Florida does have a recent history of sending people to their graves before their time has come.) What could possibly explain those numbers? I have come up with several theories: 1) They buried a few people who maybe have seen better days, but weren't, technically, "dead." 2) People without Casket Coverage or a Burial Nest Egg decided to expire during the hurricane in the hope that the federal government would consider the deaths hurricane-related. 3) The news media under-reported hurricane deaths because let's face it, after four hurricanes it's easy to get your notes all confused. 4) FEMA miscounted a goodly number of deceased Florida Swamp Monsters as Hairy Floridians. 5) Many of the victims traumatized by the hurricanes are only on life support, awaiting a court order and media frenzy before they can be officially unplugged. 6) Maybe they are "spotting" us a few funerals in anticipation of the upcoming hurricane season. 7) Who cares, no one expects a government agency to be accurate about anything. It is true that many deaths were caused by the effects of the weather. A Banyan tree falls on you. Your mobile home gets transformed into a trash compactor. You cross the road in 125 mph winds to see what's on the other side. (more wind) You mis-use your handy generator and gas yourself to death. But just as likely, there were probably a number of people teetering on the edge of death who got pushed over by the stress. Plus it got me to thinking, how DO people handle death during hurricanes? They are not like tornadoes that are over in a couple of seconds. One minute you have a house, the next you have plywood potpourri with an attic insulation topping. In that case you just locate the deceased and take care of business. (and I don't mean to be blase about this. It is kind of an oddball subject. ) However a hurricane plays out over a period of hours, or in the case of Hurricane Frances this past fall, DAYS. So what do you do with your newly-minted dead body if you can't get those Embalming People out to take a look? And no refrigeration techniques because the power is out? I guess the best thing to do would be to pull up a sheet and tell the children they can't play in that room. (although is anyone legally allowed to "pull up the sheet" if a coroner hasn't been consulted?) Another option would be to prop the person up in bed, maybe with festive accessories, and tell the children to not bother them unless they ask for snacks. You see, there are no really good solutions to this. Neither dying nor living with dead bodies is a fun option when it comes to hurricanes. However I hate to suggest adding bodybags to the list of things Floridians need to stock up on prior to the next hurricane season. Which starts, ahem, in JUNE. A mere month and a half away. There is one good thing, though. In Florida, even if you are deceased, you can still vote. No matter what killed you.


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