PFLUGERVILLE, Texas — At Cook-Walden/Capital Parks Funeral Home & Cemetery, the staff has had to adapt to a new way of providing funeral services because of the impacts of coronavirus.
“This has been a real challenge, you know. This goes against everything that we are," said Rick Davis, the general manager of the Pflugerville funeral home. "We are all about pulling people together, celebrations, large groups and, of course, now circumstances being what they are, we’re having to find ways to do this very differently.”
One way they've been able to adapt is by offering a new type of service for the cemetery and its clients: drive-in style.
“We’ve got a couple of services scheduled. Literally, we just finished getting some hardware we needed earlier today," Davis said as he stood in front of the tall AM radio transmitter.
The transmitter is placed in a section where typically Memorial Day services and events are held, Davis said. This is one of the most open spots within the 65-acre park, allowing for better reception of the funeral service.
“This allows us to broadcast throughout the park," Davis said.
With just a few pieces of hardware, the transmitter sits near the top of an extended pole, with the funeral service itself taking place in one area. Cars would be allowed to park around the area – though people attending would have to stay in their vehicles – tune into the correct AM radio station and essentially be part of the service.
“It’s hard on our staff, it’s hard on the families because staff are having to explain to the families why they can’t have the large groups. And the families are understanding, they’re wonderful, but it doesn’t make it any less painful for them to know maybe they can only bring half a dozen people or so with them,” Davis said. “They still have to remain in their cars but they can at least – they can hear the ceremony out here and it gives the families a chance to possibly wish their appreciation for being here."
This type of service has not happened yet at the cemetery, but Davis said they will be happening soon.
“Very appreciative of the opportunity, certainly it is putting to use somewhat of an old technology – AM radio – in a modern-day world and people have been positive and responsive to it,” Davis said.
Other funeral homes, like Austin Natural Funerals, have changed up the way they operate to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
"So, our number one concern is people and health and giving people an opportunity to say goodbye," said Mitzi Chafetz, the funeral director at Austin Natural Funerals.
They recently switched to doing virtual funeral services.
"We are looking for opportunities to give people to interact through the telephone, through like we're doing – Skype and FaceTime ... Zoom," Chafetz said.
Chafetz also said they've added a non-contact service of bringing ashes to the home of loved ones of the person who passed.
"We'll call and let them know that we're at their door and set up a pedestal for them and call them as we provide them space to come out so that they're safe," Chafetz said.
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