2020 - Mar - Gazette - Koch Funeral Home During the Pandemic
Koch Funeral Home During the Pandemic
“Whatever the rules, we are here to serve you,” states Glenn Fleming, supervisor and funeral director at Koch Funeral Home. Koch’s funeral staff is committed to caring for families in the best manner allowed during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. As a part of Koch’s ongoing training and licensing requirements, the staff is qualified to protect the safety of the people in this community. In addition to the many measures they normally use every day, Koch staff members are implementing new policies based on federal, state and local public health official guidelines.
The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) named mortuary workers as “critical infrastructure workers” and Governor Tom Wolf included death care services in the “life-sustaining” businesses list. This means Koch’s caring for the community goes on, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
In the book, The Good Funeral: Death, Grief, and the Community of Care, Thomas G. Long wrote about the two public needs that follow a death. One, the care and disposition of the person who died. And two, the telling of the story – the story of who the deceased was, the story of who the deceased was to us, the story of how we understand life and death and the story of how we care for one another and go on living. These two public needs go hand-in-hand and during these days, Koch staff members will guide people to meet these needs with an even greater abundance of caution and in unique and creative ways.
As always, Koch staff will address the first of these two needs by caring for the person who died and providing for their disposition. Depending on the families’ preferences, loved ones can still be safely embalmed and cremated or buried.
When addressing the second of the two needs, the telling of the story, Koch staff will offer new options for visitation, funeral, memorial and remembrance services. At this time, the CDC reports that there is no known risk associated with being in the same room at a funeral or visitation service with the body of someone who died of confirmed or suspected COVID-19. However, current governmental guidelines have suggested limiting gatherings to 10 people. For this reason, public and in person visitation, funeral, memorial and remembrance services will be postponed and private meetings, services and disposition gatherings will continue. This 10-person limitation will end when the guidelines are updated by government agencies. To help include additional loved ones in gatherings and services, families can record services to share and invite contributions to a user-friendly online tribute video creation site. In addition, friends can sign the online guest books and leave personal condolences.
Beyond the group size maximum, for everyone’s safety and to adhere to the current health recommendations:
- As much as possible, Koch staff members will facilitate arrangements online, over the phone and with email and fax. They encourage postponing preplanning meetings unless the situation is critical.
- While at the funeral home or at any service, everyone is asked to practice social distancing with six feet between people and instead of handshakes and hugs, encouraging other loving gestures like hands over hearts or heart formed with two hands.
- Signs will be posted reminding individuals to not enter if they are sick or have any of the symptoms or risk factors of coronavirus. In addition, CDC flyers will be posted with information about stopping the spread of germs.
- Hand soap and sanitizer will be available for all guests to use.
- Extra tissues will be available in each room and all guests are encouraged to cover their coughs and sneezes with tissues and then dispose of those tissues in appropriate receptacles
- Extreme care will be used in disinfecting all public areas and maintaining proper sanitation of rooms, equipment and public restrooms.
- All staff will be screened for elevated temperature before the start of their work.
With his fifty plus years of funeral work, Glenn believes strongly that how we meet these two needs says a lot about who we are as people and how we will heal going forward. This pandemic is causing changes to services that can add to the grief the bereaved are already experiencing - the presence of others, support of community and touch of another human are all so important and healing. However, even though these ways of connecting are not as readily available, we are continuing to create alternative ones.
And the telling of the story doesn’t end with the services. It continues with the ongoing support and community gatherings I facilitate for Koch. Beginning in April, our Monday’s Moments group will meet virtually and we are working on other ways to provide support. Please check the Koch Funeral Home website and Facebook page for updates on how we will be offering services and community programming.
Human life is precious. Take a couple of deep breaths and let me repeat that. Human life is precious. We at Koch know this from our funeral work, and now all of us are enduring various losses to protect our individual and collective precious lives. Understand that grief is the natural reaction to loss and in our new reality, these adjusted health standards mean we are all losing different things – freedom, income, sense of security, jobs, companionship, connections and in some cases, lives. We are all grieving. Be gentle with yourself and one another.
Jackie Naginey Hook, MA, is a spiritual director, celebrant and end-of-life doula. She coordinates the Helping Grieving Hearts Heal program through Koch Funeral Home in State College. For more information, please call 814-237-2712 or visit www.kochfuneralhome.com.