The Funeral Director
By Elyse Notarianni

Before COVID-19 hit, Funeral Director Harry Platt braced for how the highly
contagious virus would upend the ways families have been coping with sorrow and burying their loved ones for generations.

He made bulk purchases of protective gear and sanitizing supplies – enough to last years in normal times. There was little to do but mentally prepare for high
demand for his services. That reality came in when the state limited gatherings to no more than 10 people, and hospitals and continuing care homes barred visitors.

“It was one funeral call after another for weeks,” says Platt, the second-generation owner of Cherry Hill-based Platt Memorial Chapels. “During a week in April, we had 20 services when we usually have 7 or 8. Seventeen of them were COVID-19-related. That one horrible week was overwhelming and almost unbelievable.”

It wasn’t just increased demand and the need to take extreme precautions that weighed on him. He typically meets face-to-face with people, giving them the time they need to talk about their loved ones and flesh out the arrangements. It’s intimate and personal, and there’s often pats on the back or hugs. And the service has an even deeper personal exchange among friends and family.

But that has all changed during the pandemic, whether or not the death was a result of the virus. Family members have often gone weeks without seeing their sick loved one. Most are devastated that in those final moments, they couldn’t say goodbye the way they had wished.

“You need people around you. You need somebody hugging you. Such a huge piece is missing from funeral services at this time.”

June 2020
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