Nicholson Funeral Home now livestreaming memorial services due to crowd restrictions
BY BRANDY TEMPLETON
During the COVID-19 pandemic, funeral homes across North Carolina have had to come up with creative ways to help families say their final goodbyes.
Under the current guidelines, only 50 people can attend a funeral. Mourners are asked to adhere to social distancing and wear face masks as well.
In an effort to help more people participate in funeral services, Nicholson Funeral Home in Statesville has been streaming services on Facebook Live.
“We’re taking a step forward in history,” said Bill Brater, Nicholson’s president. “This is going to be a part of the new normal.”
Brater and Nicholson employee Kaylee Varner came up with the idea while trying to figure out ways to serve families’ needs during these difficult times.
Having to tell some friends and family members that they cannot attend the service has compounded the grief for some families.
The coronavirus, which has claimed six lives in Iredell County and 547 across the state, has disrupted the funeral industry, forcing funeral directors to rethink the array of services they offer.
“Now they don’t have the option of having traditional receiving — viewing can be spread out for hours,” Brater explained. “People just drift in and out, and all the family can’t be present at one time.”
Some families have opted to delay memorial services until more people are allowed to gather in one place.
Others have chosen to host small, private services at the funeral home. Some have chosen to spread out in cemeteries and have pushed up against or surpassed the 50-person limit.
“Many have chosen graveside funerals,” Brater said. “Mourners must stand six feet apart and can’t always hear the preacher.”
With live-streaming, family members can be comforted that those who are unable to attend in person can still be part of the memorial service. And those who might be at risk for complications if they are infected with COVID-19 can watch safely from home.
Since Nicholson Funeral Home started live-streaming two weeks ago, the feedback from families has been positive.
One of the services received close to 5,000 views. People from Texas, Ohio, Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida all logged on to Facebook watch the funeral of Leon Barker.
“He was a prominent businessman in Harmony,” Brater said. “We’ve been blown away with how many watched his service.”
Although only 48 people were physically present, Lisa Cumby said everyone who knew her father had a chance to be part of remembering him by watching the service on Facebook.
“I’m grateful for the online streaming. It was awesome because everybody couldn’t be there because of this corona mess,” she said.
Brater said he plans to continue offering the live-streaming service, and his staff will continue exploring ways to better serve local families.
After-funeral receptions are now being offered as well.
“Our small venue is the Sharpe House and our large venue is Crawford Farms,” Brater said.
He hopes these catered receptions will also help families start to heal.
“A funeral is the worst day of anybody’s life,” he said. “When we all come out on the other side of this, we want people to know they have other options.”