Video After The Jump
LEXINGTON, S.C. (AP) — No one stands in line to embrace the widow and share memories of her husband of 50 years. No rows of family and friends file toward the flag-draped coffin to pay their last respects. No symphony of sniffles is heard across the room as the minister gives a final prayer.
Instead, a handful of people are scattered across one chapel row as if they’re strangers, not blood. White roses are pinned to empty chairs, representing those who couldn’t be there. An iPad on a tripod livestreams the service for people stuck at home across state lines.
“This is going to be a different experience for all of us,” the minister tells the half-dozen people gathered at a South Carolina funeral home to celebrate the life of J. Robert Coleman, an Army veteran, husband to Gloria, father to three sons and grandfather to three children. “But one thing that will be common is that as we conduct this service today, we’re going to open with a prayer.”
Unspoken was the reason this funeral, and untold others across the world, is different: The coronavirus outbreak, stay-at-home orders and the rules of social distancing are dramatically altering the way families and communities mourn the passing of loved ones.
“It’s hard enough to lose a loved one, but then to have the traditions that usually bring comfort at a time like this seemingly not available just kind of compounds the grief that families feel,” said Justin Baxley, of Woodridge Memorial Park & Funeral Home.
Like most funeral homes, Woodridge is limiting the number of people allowed for services. Many families find it hard to choose which loved ones will be invited to the in-person gathering and which will be relegated to watch via livestream, if at all.