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Coronavirus changing how funerals held and families grieve

Only 10 people allowed at funeral homes
Posted at 1:44 PM, Apr 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-27 08:40:07-04

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — The coronavirus is impacting almost every aspect of our lives, and funeral homes are also adapting to the new normal, which is making it harder for families to grieve during the pandemic.

Perry Buchalter spent 38 years working in the medical field at Quest Diagnostics, but COVID-19 robbed him of a relaxing retirement.

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“My dad retired March 13 and started feeling sick on the 19th or 20th. That’s perhaps the most sad part about this ... all the plans he had, particularly, to spend time with his grandchildren,” said David Buchalter, Perry’s son.

The 63-year-old grandfather from Jupiter first had a fever, then he experienced shortness of breath, and needed up walking into the hospital alone.

“Then, two days later he was on a ventilator and then eight days later he ultimately succumbed to the complete reign of terror that COVID laid upon his lungs,” David Buchalter said.

He and his family were forced to grieve from a distance and plan a virtual memorial service. David received help from co-workers and sent instructions on how to watch the service via Zoom to more than 300 people across the country.

“The cold hard reality of it for us, for every single person on that call, was they hit leave meeting and that was it,” David Buchalter said.

The owner of The Gardens of Boca Raton Funeral and Cemetery Services says because of the coronavirus, only 10 people can attend a service, and they’re not allowing an open casket because of the live stream services.

“For those families that want to say their goodbyes they’re not able to do that so the loss just keeps compounding and all you want to do is give everyone a hug, which you can’t,” said Garrett Jacobs, owner of The Gardens of Boca Raton.

Jacobs sais he’s encouraging families to make pre-arrangements about funerals for loved ones, and he’s offering the ability to hold a memorial service at a later date.

“In reality, not many people are going to relive this experience again, but we’re hoping that there’s something we can do to make it a little bit more tolerable. At the end of the day, this is not what anybody signed up for. It’s a horrible horrible situation,” Jacobs said.

David is trying to find the positive in this unfortunate situation. He says more people were able to watch and be a part of his dad’s service, and since it was recorded, one day he can share it over again with his young children.

The level of care from loved ones is still the same, and he says although it’s not easy, it’s worth the effort to plan a virtual service.

David also says he’s planning a celebration of life for his dad, once it is safe.

“We’ll probably throw a party for family and friends where we can actually have a proper drink, a proper cry, a good hug and a way for all of us to be together,” David said.