Funeral services adapt to uncertain times

By Michael Boriero – Local ­Journalism Initiative Reporter

Funeral homes in Quebec were deemed an essential service since the COVID-19 pandemic struck the province four months ago, but it has been far from business as usual.
Coopérative funéraire de l’Estrie general manager François Fouquet said that while he was able to keep his doors open, he needed to make a lot of changes. Funerals, visitations and receptions fell under heavy restrictions imposed by Quebec’s health officials.
“We were an essential service of the fact that we made the transportation of the body when somebody passes away and then we take care of all of the administration about it and take care, of course, of the cremation,” said Fouquet.
The co-op serves roughly 65 per cent of families in the Eastern Townships, according to Fouquet. However, since March, people affiliated with the funeral home have been unable to mourn the passing of their loved ones with a traditional ceremony.
“What we do is people have to stay within two metres from the other person, but for the visiting hours people are not able to stay in the place, so they come in, pay their respects and then they go away,” he said.
The provincial government reopened many businesses and services in the regions early June. Funeral homes can host up to 50 people, as long as they follow the appropriate health and safety measures.
At the height of the pandemic, however, Fouquet had to create a visitations schedule. Families, or people living under the same roof, could pay their respects but it had to be done within a 15-minute window.
This caused a lot of stress as families and friends couldn’t grieve or reminisce together. And it was made all the more tragic for those people who were unable to attend those short windows, mainly seniors over the age of 70.
“We had to talk with families and ask them how they were and listen to them,” said Fouquet. “A lot of our calls that we made to the families would last for an hour, an hour and 15 minutes, because they needed to talk; they felt so alone.”
Cass Funeral Homes in Lennoxville, which falls under the Fédération des coopératives funéraires du Québec, held several intimate services throughout the provincial lockdown. The services took place at the cemetery with no more than 10 people.
Stephan Elkas, owner of the Steve L. Elkas Funeral Home, said that the government recognized that the grieving process could not be stopped, which is why they kept funeral homes open, even if it was to service only a handful of people.

For full story and others, subscribe now.

Share this article