by Len Lear and Christine Wolkin

The instinct of families to grieve for their departed loved ones in the traditional way is strong, and yet we know that doing so puts all those present at risk. COVID-19 has prevented put families everywhere in a situation in which they can’t hold funerals or memorial services, postponing them for a future date that is not yet certain. We asked three funeral homes in our area what policies they have implemented:

•Joseph C. Thomas, Jacob F. Ruth Funeral Directors, Inc., 8413 Germantown Ave. (founded in 1851):

“These are unusual times, and we are following recommendations of the NFDA (National Funeral Directors Association). We need to limit funerals to no more than 10 of the decedent’s next-of-kin. Services are held at graveside whenever possible. The National Cemeteries require families to remain in their cars and have suspended committal services and military honors.

“If the family wants to have a viewing, it is limited to just 10 family members. If it’s a larger family, we can stagger times for the family to come. Public funeral Mass and memorial services will be scheduled at later dates. With cremation, families will be scheduling memorial services at later dates.

“If family members do not wish to come in person to the funeral home for arrangements, we can do everything online and on the phone. We Clorox wipe doorknobs, fixtures, light switches daily for our health and everyone else. Also, I find everyone understands what is going on, and I have had no problems.”

More information at jacobfruth.com

•David V. Peake, Jr., Craft Funeral Home, 814 Bethlehem Pike, Erdenheim (founded in the late 1800s):

“We are trying to abide by the guidelines set by Governor Wolf, with no gathering of more than 10 people. It depends on the church. Some are not having funerals. They try to use Zoom or other steaming services or push the funeral services off to a later date. Most people, I’d say 98 percent, do get it.

“There are funeral directors who abide by the regulations and have lost funerals. Some people shop around until they find a funeral home that will do what they want. Each cemetery has its own rule, and each church has its own rule. We do not put people’s health at risk, though. But it may put us in an uncomfortable position.

“Some people have not seen their loved one for four weeks, and then they get a call that he has passed away. Then you add to the mix the fact that there are the restrictions on the number of people at a funeral; it makes things very hard … I haven’t had to lay anyone off because we are all family members, but we have been isolating ourselves.”

More information at craftfuneralhome.com (Ed. Note: David V. Peake, Jr., is president of the Pennsylvania Funeral Directors Association.)

•Nicholas R. Andreas, Kirk & Nice Funeral Home, 41 E. Germantown Pike, Plymouth Meeting, and a second one in Feasterville (founded in 1761 in Germantown, the nation’s oldest funeral home):

“It (the pandemic) certainly has changed things a good bit, but the bigger challenge has not been the burials but rather the restrictions that have been put on those attending. I hope everyone stays safe and understands why we have to unfortunately limit things. “Everything that is in place is in place so that we can have fewer funerals. Our commitment to the safety and health of our customers, visitors and employees is of the upmost importance. I hope everyone stays safe and understands why we have to unfortunately limit things.

“A lot of families are opting to postpone the memorial service for a later date … We have had families FaceTime or stream parts to people who cannot attend, and we have ways to leave condolences and pictures on our website.

“As a part of this community, it is our responsibility to look after each other, even if looking after each other is a simple conversation or some words of encouragement. That’s why we are now offering Face-to-Face appointments, using your home computer or mobile device … By community and togetherness, we will all get through this historic event.”

More information at kirkandniceinc.com

Christine Wolkin is a local freelance writer. Len Lear can be reached at lenlear@chestnuthilllocal.com

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