While Gov. Charlie Baker listed businesses performing funeral and memorial services as ‘essential’ businesses that can remain open during the COVID-19 pandemic and statewide shutdown of other non-essential businesses, local funeral homes have had to adapt accordingly.
With churches closed for masses, cemeteries and crematoriums drastically changing how loved ones are laid to rest, and health officials urging social distancing, funeral homes in Revere, like Vertuccio-Smith, Vazza and Buonfiglio Funeral Homes, have had to think outside of the box.
“This is all new. I have never in all my years experienced this before,” said Lou Vazza. “Basically it’s just family at the services and we are referring people who can’t attend services due to the restrictions to leave their condolences on our website.”
Vazza said that while services are much smaller these days it has been business as usual when it comes to planning.
“We’ve been meeting family members at the funeral home to go over arrangements,” said Vazza. “However, all the services are private and with a small gathering for a committal prayer at the cemetery in absence of Mass.”
Vazza said families have been very understanding given the situation.
“Families have been very understanding and are not holding things off,” said Vazza. “They are going through with the limited services. For the families that want we will be doing celebration of life masses at a later date once this ends. There’s not really much else we can do right now. We adapt and change but everybody is doing the right thing for now.”
At Vertuccio-Smith, Ralph Vertuccio said he and his staff are doing exactly what they have to do for now.
“We feel so bad for the families,” said Vertuccio. “It is such a restrictive time for grieving families and it’s heartbreaking that we can’t provide them with the full service they are looking for.”
Like some other funeral homes in the area Vertuccio’s is holding private services, sometimes with a small memorial service said by a priest at the funeral home.
“We are doing the best we can but people understand we are in very uncertain times,” said Vertuccio. “We are doing as much as we can to provide people with as much as possible during this tough time.”
At Buonfiglio’s, Paul Buonfiglio said he and his staff have also been following the same restrictions set forth by the state regarding social gathering.
“Those are the guidelines that we have to follow for now,” said Buonfiglio. “We are also constantly disinfecting the funeral home before, during and after all services to keep a grip on proper hygiene.”
While it has been very difficult on families during a very sad time Buonfiglio said fortunately families do understand.
“Families are going through a very difficult time with the loss of a loved one,” said Buonfiglio. “But everyone has become more aware of the circumstances and why we have to do the things we are doing and the precautions we are taking. It has been a little easier this week than say 10 days ago.”
Buonfiglio added that people can visit the funeral home’s website and send a message or upload a photo in lieu of attending memorial services.
“We are also in the process of designing something where we can record the memorial service and upload it to the obituary on our website,” said Buonfiglio. “We are also looking at ways to live stream graveside services so people can be a part of the memorial from home.”
Archbishop of Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley made the painful decision recently to suspend Funeral Masses and other services within the church.
“We recommend that the bereaved be offered the opportunity for a graveside committal service during this time and a Memorial Mass when we are able to again offer the celebration of Mass and religious services at our parishes and churches,” he said. “Thank you for your understanding of the ongoing unprecedented circumstances of the COVID-19 public health crisis and the importance of doing all that is possible in support of the health and well being of the people we serve and the wider community.”
Cemeteries have even suspended some usual services that are part of a funeral.
Over at Woodlawn Cemetery, in order to protect its staff from being exposed to the COVID-19, immediately implemented new procedures.
The following was implemented and will last until at least April;
• No Chapel Services will take place.
• Mausoleum Services will take place on the patio outside Versailles Mausoleum. After committal services, families will disburse. They will not be allowed to view the entombment.
•Columbarium Services will take place outside in the garden area. Families will disburse after the committal service and will not be allowed to witness the inurnment.
• Graveside services will take place as normal, but families cannot witness the lowering of the casket. They must disburse after the committal service is finished.
No cremation witnessing will take place.