Funeral homes continue to balance family needs with COVID-19 safety

by Mark Cheffey

With the COVID-19 pandemic case numbers still on the rise, funeral homes like Lewis Brothers Funeral Chapel in Palmyra are having to continue to social distancing precautions in order to prevent virus hot spots.

Still, the funeral home’s owner, Jimmy O’Donnell, said it is important to help families through the grieving process.  

“We’re trying our best to keep the community safe, but it doesn’t change our commitment in providing service to families in their time of need,” O’Donnell said. “We’re still here, and we’re still here to help. We’re just doing it a little differently right now.”

Large gatherings for visitations and funerals are problematic as they are for other instances, but O’Donnell said the funeral home does its best to limit crowds to 50 or so while trying to space people out and encouraging the use of masks as much as possible.

Technology is also brought in to fill the gaps such as webcasting services for those unable to attend or wary of being around large groups of people.

“It’s an emotional time for families, so we’re trying different ways to bring them together safely,” O’Donnell said.

In addition, O’Donnell acknowledge it is also important to keep funeral staff safe while  they support families.

“We go through training to help our staff stay healthy and  provide safety for those we serve,” O’Donnell said.

Despite the inconveniences caused by the pandemic, O’Donnnel  said the public is supportive of their safety efforts.

“Families have been very understanding about what we have to do and are supportive of our efforts,” he said.

Technology, which has taken a growing presence in funerals for some time already, O’Donnell said, is also helping with the social distancing in addition to the webcasts.

He said loved ones are now able to provide photos, music and even videos without being physically present while making the remembrances of loved ones and friends even more meaningful.

“People can be more creative in their ways to pay tribute to those they’ve lost to help celebrate their lives they’ve had,” O’Donnell said.