I spent New Years Eve embalming a covid body, which is fitting, because I was the one who embalmed the first US covid case.

I think I’ve only written…three or four pieces this year? The usual reasons, I’m constantly working or sleeping, but another reason is I can’t stand the look of this site. The photo size, the dark background, the out-of-date information. I wish that instead of a blog I had a weekly column, or a newsletter, or something tangible. I hate the internet. I hate technology. I talk to my husband three times a day on WhatsApp, and although without WhatsApp we most likely would not have been able to meet, it’s very hard to come up with topics of conversation when you don’t really do anything. It doesn’t take long to answer “How was your day?” with “Good, I went to work; then got groceries; walked the dog; cooked dinner and did my prayers/recitation/studying.” He’s the same way; he owns a store and takes care of the mosque, and helps his mother around the house; the only one of her six sons to do so. I suppose he actually “does” less than I do.

Time has no meaning when you work only freelance. 3am might mean sleep. It might mean work. It might mean cleaning the house. People want to know what hours I’m available. I don’t know; call me and if I don’t answer, I’m probably sleeping. I only have to work maybe an hour or two per day to earn a living. So lately I’ve been sleeping 14+ hours a day, taking care of the house and the dog in whatever little snatches of awake time I can grab, accepting every work offer I get in the small amount of time I’m awake and ignoring the rest.

I’ve got a solid pool of funeral homes that call me for work, but sometimes I think I should develop more clients so I have backups. So I did up some new marketing materials a couple of months ago, but never found the time to distribute them. Do I really want to look for more work?

I almost became so depressed at doing so many nursing home calls – all Covid cases; at least one a day – that I wanted to turn them down. I’ve had some nursing home residents beg me to take them away. Either they’re panicking or staring flat-eyed as they watch me wrap up their deceased roommate. They know it won’t be long, but it also won’t be soon enough.

I had a fairly good year as far as accomplishments. I finished reciting the entire Quran in Arabic under the tutelage of a woman who would correct me and make me repeat it if I got so much as one syllable or one emphasis wrong. I did it in 40 days. My husband’s entire village celebrated this event; 60 lbs of biryani and sweet rice were distributed to the poor, who lined up at our house (my husband keeps reminding me that it’s just as much my house as it is his) well into the night.

I finally cashed in that jar of change I’d been adding to since 2016 and it was about $40.

I dyed my dog purple.

Oh yeah, I did embalm the body of one of my good friends in the business, and he came out so perfectly it was a shame to bury him. I will never, as long as I work, have a case turn out so well. It was almost like he was…helping me along.

I caught a frog.

But mostly, it was just a blur of bodies on bodies and wondering where I can put the next few, and wondering why I’m still doing this instead of running off to my house overseas and living a life of zero responsibility. Thankfully I still haven’t gotten sick, but many in the business have. And not everyone in the business is completely enthralled with their job; some are working for $14 per hour for someone who drinks in the hearse. And to be doing all that for something that might literally kill them, or possibly leave them with long-term multi-organ problems?

Perhaps, people are also realizing a good chunk of their families, friends and co-workers are a bunch of virus-denying, anti-vax, conspiracy theorist nutjobs who are suddenly convinced Bill Gates wants to install tracking devices in their butts, and think the Illuminati is putting chemicals in the water that turn the frogs gay. This year I was forced to end a friendship because I just couldn’t take the daily messages reminding me that the Army is spying on me through my prayer app and lemon juice cures cancer. Honestly, it does seem that more women than men fall for this crap. If women resent being called gullible, maybe they should stop getting their news sources and health advice from any website whose URL contains words like “truth” or “patriot”.

They won’t believe funeral homes are operating above capacity, sometimes working for free just to clear up a few spaces in the cooler. Some states, like New York, have resorted to storing bodies in moving vans and flying in funeral directors from all over the country to assist with the unmanageable caseload. Yet people continue to insist it’s “just a flu” or that “the flu kills more people” and ignore the fact that no funeral home ever sees this many bodies during flu season. Funeral service professionals are accused of all sorts of unethical practices, everything from forging death certificates to taking bribes from “Big Pharma.”

Due to Covid, many parts of my job have become harder. It’s taken me over a month to order a death certificate, because the vital statistics office is closed. It takes me an hour to get a body from a hospital morgue, because the security guards are all out sick and there’s just one nurse in charge of an entire floor. I got a few cloth masks that go with all my outfits and are meant to go over a headscarf, rather than looping around my ears, and then the nursing home makes me change into one of their paper masks anyway. I am starting to hate this.

And, I’m constantly reminded that in Pakistan, it’s not like this. The mosques are still open. Do I really want to do another Ramadan all alone here? Then again, do I want to take another 22-hour flight in a mask AND face shield? Last time, flight attendants patrolled the aisles and woke up anyone who removed their face shield before sleeping.

Ramadan is in April this year. Things might be different then. But they also might not. I’ll have the vaccine then, at least. I’m really looking forward to riling up the conspiracy nutjobs with my announcement that I took the Bill Gates microchip. Hey, at least if I get murdered, I’ll be easy to find.

By the way, the flu killed more people than 9/11.