‘People Deserve An Honorable Goodbye’: Coronavirus Pandemic Forces Change To Funeral Industry

‘People Deserve An Honorable Goodbye’: Coronavirus Pandemic Forces Change To Funeral Industry

SHALER TOWNSHIP (KDKA) — There are many things about normal life that just aren’t possible right now.

But one of the most painful is how families are being forced to deal with the death of a loved one.


Families are learning the mourning process is gone and traditions are lost.


“We were able to be by her bedside and we were able to be at the hospital to say goodbye, that I’m grateful for,” said former KDKA Assistant News Director Cathy Noschese.


Noschese lost her mother, Nancy, just as the social distancing rules kicked in.


So traditions, like a viewing, were sacrificed.


“You know lots of people who come to honor her and pay their respects and give you that support, too. And you need that support,” Noschese said.


The funeral included less than a dozen people.


“We did a small 15-minute service and the pastor said some prayers. The other people in the room passed through and said their goodbyes and then we had a private moment,” Noschese said.


Noschese and her brother are left to think about the celebration of their mother’s life that could have been.


“I think she deserved that,” Noschese said.


“People deserve an honorable goodbye,” says Frank Perman, who owns a funeral home in Shaler that is adapting to the new reality.


Soft furniture has been removed in favor of furniture that can be easily disinfected.


All gatherings are restricted to 10 people or fewer, visitation hours are stretched and those coming to pay their respects are required to call ahead.


Virtual funeral possibilities are now being offered.


“I can record and play it later, I can do it live. Some families have done Facebook Live, some families have done Zoom,” Perman said.


Not only is it devastating for the families, but for Perman and everyone in his business, the job has also taken on a more hazardous twist.


Everybody is presumed to have the coronavirus because there isn’t a way to know otherwise.


So safety equipment is a must.


“Everything from shoe covers, hair nets, masks, gloves, goggles, suits,” Pearman said.


There is an inconsistency in the funeral industry as far as what is offered.


What is consistent is gatherings are restricted at a time when we need to wrap our arms around each other the most.