SAN ANTONIO – As society has grappled with the collective trauma of thousands of deaths due to COVID-19 in Texas, and across the country, those working in funeral homes and cemeteries continue to help families grieve.
Kristin Tips with Mission Park Cemetery considers herself a “last responder.” Her job is to help families with their final resting spot.
The moment Tips enters the building, she’s busy. From meeting with families discussing their loved one’s burial plans, to making sure services are running on time – she does it all.
“We’re considered last responders because we’re the last ones to respond to help a family. And it’s 24/7, 365 [days], and 366 on leap year,” said Tips.
“I think the pandemic has made people realize that preparing for something that is inevitable is very important. It's very common for them to come in and buy multiple plots for the whole family, because they want to be together in life and afterlife,” said Tips.
Walking around the cemetery grounds, it’s easy to identify groups of families buried near each other. Tips said that recently she had a woman come in and make sure that burden wasn’t left for her loved ones.
“She said, ‘I want to buy enough plots for my whole family because I believe those that are buried together stay together’,” said Tips.
Being close to loved ones has proven to be an important theme, even in ways Tips may not have expected.
“We recently did a wedding for a young lady that, unfortunately, her father wasn’t there for the wedding. So she got married right next to his grave space. She wanted to be there with him for her wedding,” said Tips.
More than a year since the first COVID-19 case was detected in Texas, Tips said they’ve definitely seen growth during that time. She said funerals are for those who are left behind.
“There’s an amount of peace and it’s so therapeutic when somebody has the opportunity to come to the cemetery and visit the gravesite and visit the person they love that they can’t be with,” said Tips.
It’s her lifelong passion to help people say goodbye to their loved ones.
“Mission Park has been here for our community in the last pandemic, 100 years ago. It’s here for the families now. We’ve helped people in difficult times, even in recent burials, and we’ll continue to do that,” she said.