Graveside only

Graveside only

Funeral homes, burial sites implement measures amid COVID-19 restrictions

Staff reporter

Thursday, March 26, 2020

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FROM funeral parlours straight to the graveside, that's how some operators of funeral homes have been handling burials in light of local novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions.

Funerals without the customary church service are seemingly becoming the new norm, with funeral home operators trimming their programmes and people being laid to rest without being eulogised in order to adhere to the Government's restriction that there be no gathering in any public space of more than 10 people.

House of Tranquillity Funeral Home Director Tennyson Cornwall told the Jamaica Observer earlier this week that graveside ceremonies have been “brief”.

He explained that eulogies, as well as tributes and scriptures, have been cut from funeral programmes organised by House of Tranquillity.

Cornwall explained, too, that homilies that are normally done during services at church, are now being delivered at the graveside. In fact, he said they are now much shorter.

Additionally, the funeral home director's father, Joseph, said since the announcement of limiting gatherings to 20 on March 16, they have been organising fewer funerals. Cornwall told the Observer that they have had three postponements to date.

On Monday, the number for public gatherings was further reduced to 10.

The House of Tranquillity Funeral Home director also told the Observer that most of the relatives whose loved ones are being stored at his mortuary are now in limbo.

According to Cornwall, they are yet to decide on burial dates because people attending the funerals would exceed the number stipulated by Government. Also, some relatives of the deceased individuals who would have contributed financially to funeral arrangements are overseas and are now limited by the 14-day restriction on incoming passenger traffic to the island.

Another funeral home operator, Michael Jones of Jones Funeral Home and Supplies Limited, has adopted similar measures.

“Since the coronavirus outbreak, we have funerals going as usual, but the only change is that people don't go to the church, we go to the cemetery with just a few family members so far,” Jones said.

Noting that his business has not been affected, Jones said he has been complying with the COVID-19 restrictions and has been adhering to the measures announced by the Government.

While noting that the number of printed programmes for each funeral has reduced from 100 and more to 20, the funeral home proprietor also said people being laid to rest are no longer eulogised.

In keeping with the time frame they are allotted at burial sites, Jones said there is not enough time for tributes and other things that would have been customary at funerals.

According to Jones, there is an opening hymn, a prayer, a lesson or two from the Bible, and a short sermon by the officiating pastor.

Meanwhile, Dovecot Memorial Park Manager Marcia Bernard told the Observer that prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, well-wishers with funeral parties could just enter the burial site but restrictions are now in place.

Noting that Dovecot has had to seek assistance from the Jamaica Constabulary Force to enforce the new measure, Bernard said only 15 burials are now allowed at the site per day.

Funeral home operators have been informed about the new cemetery measures that have been implemented in light of COVID-19, Bernard said.

“Since we are not having the big funeral on Saturday and Sunday, they could even have it during the week,” she suggested.

Meadowrest Memorial Gardens CEO Ingrid Chambers told the Observer that they are also only facilitating 15 burials per day.

“We felt the need to reduce the numbers to reduce the crowd… We thought the crowdedness was a problem… Most funerals, funeral homes arrive between 3:00 pm and 5:00 pm, we have more concentration in that period so what we have sought to do now is to do better scheduling.

“We start at 10 in the morning and we are trying to get 'X' number per hour,” Chambers explained.

Noting that most funerals are held on Saturdays and Sundays, the CEO said Meadowrest Memorial Gardens is now encouraging their customers to utilise weekdays.

“What we have done, effective last weekend, is that we have members of the security forces at the gate as we count the number of persons attending the funerals, to limit the numbers...” Chambers stated.

Additionally, the CEO said they are now offering a five per cent discount to relatives who choose to bury their loved ones during the week.

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