Funeral Homes Adapting to Life During the COVID-19 Pandemic

While Gov. Charlie Baker listed businesses performing funeral and memorial services as ‘essential’ businesses that can remain open during the COVID-19 pandemic and statewide shutdown of other non-essential businesses, local funeral homes have had to adapt accordingly.

With churches closed for masses, cemeteries and crematoriums drastically changing how loved ones are laid to rest and health officials urging social distancing Funeral Homes in Winthrop, like Maurice Kirby Funeral Home and  Caggiano Funeral Homes have had to become more creative.

“We have moved to just doing private services,” said Peter Cagginao. “When it first started we could only have 25 people in the funeral home and then 10 as of Monday so we are adapting every single day. Never know what’s going to happen in the next hour.”

Caggiano said private service for immediate family includes a service at the funeral home and then a private graveside service where the priest offers final prayers.

“It’s been very tough for people,” said Caggiano. “This week we had what would have usually been a very very large funeral but we had to do only a private service. So we’ve been adding stuff to our website and encouraging the public to send cards to the families or the funeral home and sign the online guest book. We are trying to provide as much as we can for our families.”

Caggiano also said he has been considering online live streaming of private services.

“One company, Tribute Cast, has reached out,” said Caggiano. “They are trying to get funeral homes to do more webcasting so I’ve been thinking about that as an option depending on how long this lasts. It’s hard because we have had to change our business and the way we operate. We service the public and now we have to tell the public to stay away but we just want to keep everyone safe at this time.”

“In accordance with C.D.C., the Massachusetts Dept. of Public Health and the Archdiocese of Boston guidelines on large gatherings, funerals and burials are private,” said Warren Kirby. “All of us in the funeral business are on the same page on this. There’s a limited number of people who can enter the building so we encourage people to send a card to the family or funeral home, leave a message of condolence on our website, or send a donation in the loved one’s honor.”

Kirby said while families are disappointed they are starting to get the reasons why social contract has to be limited at this time.

“We are encouraging families to have something, even if it is for an hour,” said Kirby. “Until this gets resolved we will have to follow the guidelines and provide what we can provide.”

Archbishop of Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley made the painful decision recently to suspend Funeral Masses and other services within the church.

“We recommend that the bereaved be offered the opportunity for a graveside committal service during this time and a Memorial Mass when we are able to again offer the celebration of Mass and religious services at our parishes and churches,” he said. “Thank you for your understanding of the ongoing unprecedented circumstances of the COVID-19 public health crisis and the importance of doing all that is possible in support of the health and well being of the people we serve and the wider community.”

Cemeteries have even suspended some usual services that are part of a funeral.

Over at Woodlawn Cemetery, in order to protect its staff from being exposed to the COVID-19, immediately implemented new procedures.

The following was implemented and will last until at least April;

No Chapel Services will take place.

Mausoleum Services will take place on the patio outside Versailles Mausoleum.  After committal services, families will disburse.  They will not be allowed to view the entombment.

Columbarium Services will take place outside in the garden area. Families will disburse after the committal service and will not be allowed to witness the inurnment.

Graveside services will take place as normal, but families cannot witness the lowering of the casket.  They must disburse after the committal service is finished.

No cremation witnessing will take place.

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