More than 100 families in McLean County will now be able to memorialize their loved ones, in some cases, months after they died.
Bloomington-Normal funeral homes have had a backlog of memorial services since the pandemic started in March. Until a few days ago, gatherings of 10 or more people were off. Now as Phase 4 of Restore Illinois begins, up to 50 people can gather in one place.
“We are anxious to be able to say yes to a lot more ... and I think families will be satisfied,” said Alex Calvert, funeral director for Calvert funeral homes in Central Illinois.
Calvert said families understood, but in recent weeks they have wanted more than just small graveside or video services. He's already started to reschedule larger memorial services in the summer and fall. Calvert said families are grateful loved ones will be able to travel from out of state to say their goodbyes.
“That’s one thing that will be nice as we are able to expand even more, the family members that live elsewhere will be able to get home safely and then be with their loves ones,” Calvert said.
Dan Brady, co-owner of Kibler-Brady-Ruestman Funeral Home in Bloomington, said expanding funerals to 50 people also allow close friends and others to attend and allows families to hold funerals in their house of worship. Brady hopes this will give more people closure, something many haven't had because of shelter-in-place orders.
“Many of these families have not been able to be with their loved ones in their last dying hours or (when) taking their last breath, whether that be at a hospital, nursing home or other facility,” Brady said.
The funeral service limits may have been a hardship for some, but Brady said the pandemic could prompt long-term changes in how we memoriaiize our loved ones.
“I believe it will have a lasting impression on people looking at the selection of their final means of disposition for a loved one, maybe something more traditional versus something more immediate in the way of cremation or immediate burial or just a graveside service,” Brady said.
Calvert said his funeral homes accommodated larger families while still observing social distancing by having multiple graveside services and drive-thru visitation.
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