Planning a loved one’s funeral is never easy. Doing so during the COVID-19 outbreak has added an unwelcomed level of uncertainty to the process.
East Cocalico Township police Officer Brennan Lied died March 10 from injuries sustained in a motorcycle crash. He was off duty.
His obituary on March 15 announced funeral services were scheduled for Tuesday. On Monday, Gov. Tom Wolf announced that mitigation efforts aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus would go statewide for an expected initial period of two weeks.
Later that day, Lied’s obituary was updated to announce the service was postponed.
On March 20, 11 funeral notices on LancasterOnline informed readers that services were postponed, rescheduled, moved or changed.
For a field known for intimate gatherings, it is a noticeable adjustment for funeral homes.
“This is just so unusual,” said Lisa Groff, president of Groff Family Funeral and Cremation Services and a funeral director for more than 25 years.
“You worry for your families, you worry for your communities (and) you worry for your staff,” she added.
Several funeral directors have sought to ease concerns by embracing alternative forms of funeral services.
“You can still have a dignified farewell,” said Jeremy DeBord, owner of DeBord Snyder Funeral Home and Crematory in Lancaster.
Groff said Tuesday that she had just finished purchasing equipment to livestream funeral services.
“Maybe people can’t come in from afar or are in nursing homes,” she said. “This could help in that aspect.”
To mitigate the risk of spread, Snyder Funeral Home director Chad Snyder said he has been providing precautionary guidance to families to limit physical contact.
Mint bowls at his funeral home facilities have been replaced with disinfectant, he said, and signs in the lobby encourage expressing condolences verbally instead of a hug or with a kiss.
Philip Furman, owner of Furman Home for Funerals in Leola, said he recommends holding a private funeral and private burial with immediate family members only. If desired, families could hold a public memorial service at a later date.
Several funeral directors said they are considering staggered visitations to minimize the chance for larger groups.
Pastor Dave Johnson with the Washington Boro Church of God said visitors at future services would be kept “at a minimum” due to the ongoing outbreak.
The Diocese of Harrisburg said small funeral Masses may take place at the discretion of the pastor, according to diocese spokeswoman Rachel Bryson.
“We still ask that these events be restrained in the number of people gathered, following the government guidelines,” she said.