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Pandemic challenges undertakers to think differently

Over the past several weeks all industries have been challenged to think differently. Our new normal has become take out meals at restaurants, virtual doctor appointments, and “essential” trips to the liquor store.

In the world of an undertaker we’ve even witnessed creative methods to carry out a traditional final farewell. While many funeral homes have denied services, it makes me proud to see that there are still a few performing services and thinking “outside the box” (no pun intended) in order to provide closure for family and community.

With the restrictions currently put on all businesses, even the essential ones, we find funeral homes continuing to evolve in order to provide ways to help the community cope with a loss. One example of this is funeral homes transforming their covered car ports into a drive-thru viewing area. Yes, funeral homes are taking chapters out of the fast food industry and starting to offer visitations from the safety of your own car.

One funeral home utilized a tent to cover three sides of the casket, surrounded the area with flowers, played the deceased’s favorite tunes and displayed memorabilia and photos to share the story of a life lived all along the outdoor route. Family gathered on one side of the car port, while the casket rested on the other. This “new normal” can now provide guests the opportunity to visit and view as they slowly make their way under a covered car port.

While we see funeral homes changing the viewing area from inside to out, we also see funeral homes reconfiguring their facility to offer a true drive-thru window. Rather than having everything outside, the family and casket are all together in a large room visible through a widow from the parking area. Guests are invited to drive up to the window, remain in their cars to then view the deceased and also visit with a few members of the family that are present in the room.

Over the past weeks we are now finding this drive-thru visitation, both indoor and out, being offered at many progressive funeral homes in order to provide an alternative to not having a time for proper closure.

A visitation and gathering of friends and family is important and to most the ceremony is equally as paramount. Due to the restrictions of no more than 10 able to be in a single gathering, we are witnessing modifications to the traditional chapel set up.

As a matter of fact, the funeral profession witnessed its first drive-in funeral in San Antonio, Texas. In the same fashion that it was in the 1950s, cars were instructed to park in particular areas so they can face a giant screen outside. Using a state of the art sound system, the services were carried out in a way everyone could witness. Although they could not be in the same room as the family, guests were able to be involved with the ceremony and be comforted by the words being shared. It was an incredible way to offer closure to a large number of guests and provide the showcase of love from everyone present for the immediate family.

I personally feel that one of the most important opportunities in the grief process is coming together to share memories. With the restrictions set forth with social distancing we are, at the moment, unable to share a traditional embrace. Out of all the limitations the funeral profession is facing, this would be the most challenging.

Unfortunately there is no legal way to gain the physical touch that many feel is so important during this time, but through technology we are finding funeral homes offering creative alternatives.

The platform Zoom has revolutionized the traditional visitation/ceremony for the death care industry. Guests are being invited to log into the Zoom platform within a designated time. As they log on, they are greeted by a representative from the funeral home who will ask for the guest’s name, relationship and a favorite memory. This is then relayed to the family as they are invited into the virtual gathering. For a period of time this continues until it is time for the officiant to lead a ceremony. The funeral home staff then mutes all until the minister concludes. Each guest is then individually dismissed by unmuting and invited to share one last farewell message.

In addition to this creative alternative to a gathering in person, we are finding funeral homes offering webcasting of the ceremony and even a platform on their websites were guests can share a memory, purchase a flower to be delivered and even order a meal for a family member.

Different for sure, but ultimately still offering a means of sharing in the love of someone’s life and showcasing a message of sympathy.

Ultimately it still deeply saddens me to receive countless emails and phone calls from families regarding how area funeral homes will not and cannot assist them. Please know there are undertakers out there who pride themselves on the commitment to their communities in order to help families heal. These select few will make themselves available to provide what you need. Through technology and creative thinking, know that progressive undertakers stand committed to giving each of you the service and ceremony necessary to gain proper closure and a memorable final farewell during this unprecedented time. Before committing to a funeral home today, be sure to ask what options are available. It is now more important than ever to communicate with your undertaker what services will bring the proper closure for you, your family and community.

Resources for Marylanders and employees during COVID-19

SBDC Webinar - Topics: EIDL and CARES (PPP) COVID 19 Loans

Monday 4/6/2020, 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM (EDT)

Space is Limited ~ You Must Register:

Please RSVP with a valid email. After registering, you will receive a Zoom Meeting link to join online, or you can join via the dial-in number. This webinar will be recorded and shared, and if space fills up, additional dates will be added.

Daily SBA Conference Call – Updates (M-F) provided and you can ask questions.

3:00 p.m., Call 202-765-1264, Conf Call ID# 827-299-626

5:30 p.m., Call 202-765-1264, Conf Call ID# 310-688-488

EIDL Application Help – Daily 10:30 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. On the call, an SBA agent will walk you through how to fill out the EIDL form. Have all your necessary documents ready. Zoom Meeting # 6794772946

Paycheck Protection Program Loan (PPPL) FAQ -

SBA COVID-19 Small Business Guidance & Loan Resources

Main Maryland Business Information Site for COVID 19 updates and resources -