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How The Coronavirus Pandemic Has Upended The Most Difficult Part Of Life — Death

Memorial services across the country have been scaled back or put on hold until the pandemic has passed.

A hearse is parked outside Mission Funeral Home. Funeral homes in Austin must comply with local and statewide orders that limit how many people can gather during the coronavirus pandemic.

Terry Shockley remembers her mother, Patsy Hopper, as a strong person.

“She had to be.” she said. “She eventually had four children. We were a military family, so we were moving a lot. She had to do a lot of packing, a lot of organizing, a lot of discipline. My dad was busy with his career. She was strong.”   

A photo of Patsy Hopper.

Hopper and her husband moved to South Austin in the 1980s to be near Shockley, who was a single mother of two. After Shockley’s dad died, her mom became a roommate and travel partner. 

“We went to England,” she said. “We made two trips to France, one to the Normandy-area, then to Provence. We went to Italy. We went to Vancouver several times. One of my brothers lives there.”     

In the last few months, Hopper entered a memory care facility. Then on March 13, the 93-year-old mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and travel buddy had a stroke and passed away.

As word of Hopper’s death made it to other family members, a few things were clear: Travel restrictions and unease about the spread of the coronavirus were making one of the more difficult parts of life – a loved one’s death – even more difficult. 

“The other relatives are unable to travel or choosing not to because it’s so questionable,” Shockley said. “One brother is in Canada. Of course, we know the situation with that. He can’t come across the border.”  

That prompted some relatives to ask Shockley’s daughter Patty Crowe a difficult question.

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