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Paying Respects

Coronavirus forces changes
for funeral homes

Families find ways to cope with CODID-19 funeral restrictions

(September 2020) – A common perception is that there is always an inside track where the rules do not apply. For Ken Goins, Funeral Director at Ransdell Funeral Home in Bedford and Campbellsburg, Ky., all the COVID-19 shutdown rules still applied when his mother died in April.
“It had been six weeks since I was in the same room with my mother. It was terrible. Thanks to technology, at least we had been able to FaceTime with her until the last few days.” Goins said.
The funeral services were brief. There was no visitation with friends and extended family. The family came together for a small private visitation and graveside service. Finally, in June they were able to celebrate his mother’s life with a special service at her church in Madison, Ind., complete with social distancing, masks and limited interpersonal contact. He still remembers the personal impact of those challenges – challenges faced by other grieving families who may feel that no one could possibly understand.
Funeral directors and staff members continue to cope with COVID-19 restrictions every day. Each state has its own restrictions and requirements. “Generally, the public has been very cooperative,” Goins said. “They understand how it is, even if they want something more. I feel for these families. Everyone has traditions. It doesn’t seem fair to end someone’s life without a proper recognition and ceremony.”

Goins


In Kentucky, funeral homes are now open at 50 percent capacity. During visitation, visitors are now allowed to pass by the casket using a designated pathway. There is not much interaction close up. There is no seating. Only family members are allowed to stop and talk for a few minutes. The pathway proceeds to the back door.  Visitors are in and out within about 10 minutes, according to Goins. In general, there are fewer visitors because many people are afraid to come out to an event. As a result, Goins explained that more families are doing either same-day visitation and funeral or just one day of visitation before the funeral. Some also are opting for cremation with no service at all.
Kentucky funeral homes are not allowed to provide any lounge activities or refreshments. At the cemetery, the vault company used to provide seating under the tent. Now there are no chairs or only a few chairs for the family. Everyone else stands up. The graveside service generally lasts about five minutes. Military honors are still available.
“The American Legion Post 9 in Madison, Ind., does a great job. They will come over to Kentucky if the Honor Guard Service is requested for a veteran. Even with the capacity up to 50 percent, often there is only room for family members and a few invited friends. Goins, 62, has logged more than 40 years of experience in the funeral industry. “I have never seen anything like this,” he said.
Trevor Lytle, owner of Lytle Welty Funeral Homes and Cremation Service in Madison, Ind., is also a veteran funeral director. He is a fourth-generation funeral director in the business started in 1920 by his great-grandfather, Andrew H. Lytle. While growing up in the 1980s, young Trevor helped in the business by washing cars, cleaning and doing maintenance. When it came time for a career, he wasn’t sure about funeral services.  “Initially, I wanted to run away from it, but it drew me in. I came back. However, Lytle arranged drive-through visitation at the Vail Chapel location, using a portico next to the chapel.
“People were able to stay in their cars. It worked out. Some families also visited out in the parking lot, then walked through the chapel, just a few at a time. It was still difficult for families not to have friends and family together,” Lytle said.

Lytle


Although videos of funeral services were previously available online, Lytle had the software changed to make it easier for family and friends to watch the service. Now one click on the link on the memorial page brings up the video. Families can continue to access the video, view the slide show of photos and add photos throughout the year. “Technology has added a lot to the process,” Lytle said.
At Morgan & Nay Funeral Center in Madison, Rosalind Harrell, assistant to Rodney Nay, explained the creative way they managed visitations when only 10 people were allowed in the chapel at a time. Visitors were staged in separate rooms in groups of 10 until they were able to move into the chapel. Sometimes several rooms were in use to manage the volume. Other families delayed funeral services during the restrictions in the spring. Those delayed services were able to be scheduled in June. Families also scheduled Celebration of Life services, reminiscing and using memories of the joys, accomplishments and traits to bring closure.
“People still need that closure,” Harrell said. “In our culture, we extend hugs and kind deeds after a loss. It has been difficult for guests and families not to hug or shake hands. They are limited to air hugs and elbow taps. With masks on, families cannot see comforting smiles, but eyes still talk when words fail. Over time, we find solace and comfort, but the amount of time varies for everyone. There’s an old saying that in time, we remember the life, not the death.”  

 

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