Funeral home adjusts to public gathering restrictions

MIDLAND CITY, Ala. (WTVY) -- Many businesses are wondering what they are going to do now that non-essential businesses must close for the next three weeks.

Photo: L.C. Nøttaasen / CC BY 2.0 / Photo: Public Domain Pictures / MGN

On Friday Governor Kay Ivey announced all non-essential businesses will close for the next three weeks in order to combat the novel Coronavirus.

Although funeral homes do not fall under this category, they are still feeling the effects of the disease.

Sunset Memorial Park Funeral Director, Robert Byrd said “we’re restricted now by how many people can come to a funeral service.”

As of 5 o’clock Saturday evening gatherings of more than 10 people are prohibited in the state of Alabama.

Robert Byrd and his son came up with a way to ensure families that their loved one’s presence would be felt on such a difficult day.

So they decided to place balloons with hand written notes on the pews in place of people.

“The family can look around the chapel and see that these are people that would be here if it wasn’t for this condition that we’re under today,” Byrd said.

Many funeral homes have begun broadcasting services for those who can’t be in attendance.

But Byrd wants families to know that they are in the thoughts and prayers of their loved ones who can’t be present.

“The families don’t know they’re watching. But the balloons, when they turn around and look, they know that they are somebody that’s thinking about them,” Byrd said.

He concluded “that’s the difference between the video- the broadcasting- and our balloons. We want to give the family comfort that people are caring and do think about them.”

Ann Stewart says planning her mother’s funeral become even more difficult when she had to limit the number of loved ones who could attend the service.

“Since she was 88-years-old there were a lot of issues with her friends being elderly and not being able to come out and it was an undertaking on how to actually pull this off,” Stewart said.

But seeing all of those balloons had Ann overcome with one emotion.

“Happiness because it made my mother smile and I know it did,” Stewart said.

With all of the current restrictions in place, what happens if Alabama implements a shelter-in-place policy?

“It’ll stink is what’ll happen. I think the next best option would be to- if it’s necessary to do the burial first and then have a memorial ceremony later, that’s going to be our next best option,” Byrd said.

Sunset Memorial Park is currently looking for clarification on the number of people who can attend the burial service which is held outside where 6 feet social distancing can be managed.



 
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