Funeral homes adjust to changes during virus pandemic


Glenn Lewis was well respected by his family and friends.

After his unexpected death Sunday, they were unsure if they would be able to pay their respects.

While talking to Mark Adams with Adams Family Funeral Home and Crematory in Crothersville, Lewis’ wife and sons learned about the guidelines funeral homes had to follow because of the coronavirus and COVID-19 pandemic.

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Late last week, funeral homes had to limit attendance at visitations and services to no more than 50 people, including immediate family and officiants. They were asked to not shake hands and to practice proper hygiene and social distancing.

With Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb’s executive order issued Monday, the number dropped to no more than 10 people in assembly at one time with social distancing requirements being observed. That went into effect at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday and goes through 11:59 p.m. April 6.

Lewis’ visitation was planned for Wednesday with the funeral Thursday, but Adams proposed an alternative to the family.

He asked if they wanted to do a drive-thru visitation Tuesday, where he would place the casket under the veranda outside and people could stay in their cars and drive by to speak to the family and pay their respects.

“It was a big shock. I don’t think any of us were really for the idea at first,” one of Glenn’s sons, Dustin Lewis, said. “Then everything else developed, and it was like, ‘I know it’s not fair to Dad that he doesn’t get to go the way that we feel like he would want to.’ Everybody that knows my dad knows that he is the life of the party … everybody loves him. We wanted them to be able to still pay their respects.”

After further consideration, the family agreed it was the best option.

“We had to give people that closure,” Dustin said.

Glenn’s wife, Dawn Lewis, posted about the change in plans on her Facebook page and encouraged anyone who knew her husband to come by.

“Myself and my boys and his sisters will all be standing out there to welcome you,” she wrote. “And even if you don’t know me or my boys, stop and tell us who you are, how you knew Glenn Lewis and maybe even a story you have to tell us because right now, that’s all we have.”

She also said she hoped to see “the biggest traffic jam this town has ever seen” as vehicles lined up near the funeral home for the visitation.

That’s exactly what happened Tuesday. Rain didn’t stop people from being there for the family.

“We were afraid we were doing (Glenn) a disservice, but after (Adams) told us the whole idea, we were like, ‘Let’s do it if this is how people get to come and pay their respects,’” Dawn said. “I’m so thankful that they came up with the idea and went outside the box. It’s not perfect, but it works.”

The family appreciates everyone who came by.

“Thanks for bearing with us and thanks for taking this opportunity to still be able to show your respects of a phenomenal man,” Dustin said.

“Everybody wants to hug the family, but with this going on, we’re like, ‘That’s not an option for us,’” he said. “It was either we do this or it was going to be me and Mom and my brother, and no one else was going to get the closure. Knowing Dad, he would’ve wanted this rather than just us because everybody loved that man.”

Adams said years ago, he read about a funeral home in California putting a casket in a large picture window for people to drive by and pay their respects.

But with the guidelines being handed down because of the virus pandemic, he said he “never in a million years” saw that coming.

“I never, ever thought I would ever expect this, but for the times, it made sense,” he said. “Leslie and I were talking and the boys, ‘How can we help them have a service?’ I know that we had to stick with the mandates. At the time, this fit for the mandates.”

Adams said he could see the uncertainty in the family at first.

“Then I said, ‘Just think about it, let it soak in a little bit what I’m talking about and maybe it will make more sense,’” he said. “They just wanted to give an opportunity for all of his friends. They said, ‘People need closure,’ and this is just one way that Leslie and the boys thought that we could help them.”

Adams said the situation took him back to July 2019 when his father died.

“Thinking, ‘How would I face that if I was in that same position?’ and I would hope that there was a funeral director that would have guided us to something like this, give us some options for closure,” he said.

Other Jackson County funeral directors have used technology to allow people to watch funerals.

Spurgeon Funeral Home in Brownstown and Voss and Sons Funeral Service and Woodlawn Family Funeral Centre in Seymour have live-streamed funerals on their Facebook pages.

Luke Nolting with Spurgeon Funeral Home said when he proposed that option to families recently, they were receptive and very thankful.

“We were very fortunate the past couple families that we’ve served have been very understanding of the guidelines and requirements,” he said. “It’s still extremely hard, obviously, for them to go through this grieving process without friends and family calling and coming through the line for visitation and service.”

Mark Adams with Voss and Sons Funeral Service also said the technology option has been well received.

“We live in a community that actually supports what we are going through. This Facebook stream has been wonderful,” he said.

“It’s a time where family and friends come together and share, and this is the way we’re having to share this difficult time in a family’s life with friends and other family members,” he said. “It’s not like receiving a hug and a handshake and seeing someone. Nothing will ever replace human contact, but for right now, the time being, temporarily (it works).”

In his 36 years in the business, Adams said he hasn’t seen restrictions to this stage.

“I’ve talked to the older generation and asked what happened back in the early days with polio and things like that. They said, ‘We’ve never experienced things like this, even back then,’” he said.

Voss and Sons is being proactive with the precautions.

“After every 10 people come in, we disinfect the chapel, chairs and restrooms, our conference tables after anyone sits in there, every room,” Adams said. “We are trying to do our part.”

At a cemetery, he said no more than 50 people can gather, and they have to be spread out. Also, there are no chairs under the tent near the gravesite, and the tent can’t have sidewalls.

“We are taking every moment and understand that the loss of a loved one is very impactful to a family, and we are there in the same manner to console and respect the family’s wishes,” Adams said. “We still want to give them as much time, and that’s what we do, just being compassionate.”

Adams also praised Schneck Medical Center in Seymour and local nursing homes for working with the funeral homes through these unusual circumstances.

He also had a pastor friend from Kentucky call and say he and his staff were on his heart and offered a prayer.

“It’s very, very impressive,” Adams said. “We all understand.”

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