Funeral Homes Feel Effects of Quarantine

Mansfield Funeral Home has a garden in the back where families can retreat. Photo by Mansfield Funeral Home

The numbers of cases of COVID-19 rise daily, as do the number of people who have died from the virus.

While local funeral homes are not reporting being overwhelmed with the deceased, the quarantine has changed the way they operate.

“It’s sad,” said Michael Hurtt, owner of West-Hurtt Funeral Home in DeSoto. “You have to practice social distancing. You can’t go to church.”

The problem is that due to the executive order from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott no more than 10 people can gather in one place. Funerals can draw quite a crowd.

“That is where the impact is,” said Christie K. Moore, owner of Mansfield Funeral Home. “We have to find creative ways for the community to come together.”

Funeral homes are live streaming services on Facebook and Zoom. Some families are even making preparations for funerals by email, phone or Zoom to avoid contact during the pandemic.

“Most people are having a graveside service,” Hurtt said. “If they want a chapel funeral, we can film it. We’re only allowed 10 people.”

More people are choosing cremation

More people are also choosing cremation, Moore said, although there is no health concern with embalming.

“We’ve been told to be very careful,” she said. “I was a mortuary professor and taught chemistry and embalming. We taught to treat each case with care and wear our PPE.”

Hurtt agreed, saying that his staff takes the necessary precautions, wearing gloves, gowns and face shields as they would do for any client.

“The hard part is the hospital or the nursing home,” Hurtt said, where families are not allowed to visit. “Hospices are still operating. They allow the family to come see them.”

But visitations and funerals are small affairs for now.

“We pick a day or two and allow people to come for awhile,” Hurtt said of visitation. “I have 10 playing cards at the funeral door. When they arrive, they get a card. When they leave, they put it back.”

Mansfield Funeral Home has a garden behind the building. And while they still can’t have more than 10 people, the outdoors, birds and fresh air help soothe people, Moore said.

Families get creative

Other families have gotten creative with small funerals.

“The children had taken care of their mother for 17 years,” Hurtt said. “They got together every Saturday to play cards with her. They each got a card, wrote a message on them and put them in the grave with her. It was very meaningful. Only the four kids attended.”

Some memorials will have to wait, like for the veteran who earned three Bronze Stars and served as a sheriff.

“The service will be at the National Cemetery,” Hurtt said. “His wife has Alzheimer’s so she won’t be there. His daughter and her husband will follow us to the cemetery and watch from their car. They will have a memorial after (the quarantine) when he will get honored.”

Even if people cannot attend a funeral in person, it’s important to let the family know that you are thinking of them, Hurtt said.

“It’s important for people to send cards, make calls and access the online guest book,” Hurtt said. “Make sure the family knows you care.”