For Fort Worth Funeral Home Owner, Coronavirus is Both Personal and Professional

'It is taking people away from this world left and right,' he says

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As owner of the Tree of Life funeral home in Fort Worth, Andrew Sims-Kirkland has already helped bury more than a half-dozen coronavirus victims, including his own aunt.

He also knows how the virus feels because he got it himself.

"To be honest I have absolutely never felt the way I felt," he said Thursday in an interview outside his east Fort Worth mortuary.

He said he came down with a fever last month, started feeling worse and worse, and lost all his energy.

"And (I) ended up passing out right at the bathroom door,” he said. “Don't even really know how long I was out."

He went to the hospital and tested positive.

"I literally at one point felt like I was dying,” he said. “I'm a Christian man. I cried out to God. At one point it got so bad, I said, 'God, please make my transition to the next life easy’ because I thought it was the end."

He finally recovered after 18 days.

His aunt, Janice Young, got sick about the same time.

She was admitted to the hospital and placed on a ventilator.

She died on March 29 at the age of 74 as her nephew was still recuperating.

"I literally made her funeral arrangements via Facetime,” Sims-Kirkland said.

"She was the epitome of family,” he said. “She never met a stranger and she made all of us feel as though we were all her favorite."

Now, he’s back to work at the funeral home, organizing more services for coronavirus victims.

He has to tell grieving families that only five people at a time can go to visitation and a maximum of 10 are allowed under the tent at graveside.

"That's been the hardest part simply because families come together in order to grieve their loved one and help one another through everything that they're going through,” he said.

He said when he first saw news stories about the virus, he thought it was overblown.

Not anymore.

"My hope is that we as a community, we as a city, as a state, even as a nation that we take this very seriously because it is taking people away from this world left and right,” he said.

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