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SC News

How the Pandemic is Changing the Way Many Mourn

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Thelisha Eaddy
/
SC Public Radio
A graveside service in Berkeley County in February, 2021.

The Coronavirus pandemic has changed many aspects of daily life, including how people work, attend school and socialize. The virus, which has claimed almost 12,000 lives in South Carolina, is also having an impact on how many people mourn their dead. Within the African-American community, instead of observing days of culture-rich traditions, many families have settled for a scaled-back graveside service to celebrate the life of a loved-one.

The Coronavirus pandemic has changed many aspects of daily life, including how people work, attend school and socialize. The virus, which has claimed almost 12,000 lives in South Carolina, is also having an impact on how many people mourn their dead. Within the African-American community, instead of observing days of culture-rich traditions, many families have settled for a scaled-back graveside service to celebrate the life of a loved-one.

When Tamara Pinckney's father died in February, she and her family found themselves trying to balance his wishes with CDC guidelines and recommendations for gatherings.

"The pastor told be that we definitely would not be able to get inside the church."

Pinckney's father did not die from COVID, but his final wishes were impacted by the disease. Prior to his death, she said her father expressed he wanted her to sing at his funeral. Under a large green tent, at a grave yard in Berkeley County, she and a small group of family sang "Resting Easy" by the Soul Stirrers to honor is request.

"He didn't tell me what he wanted me to sing, but that was one of his favorite songs, so I thought it would be fitting."

But Pinckney said there were even limits to how much singing could take place outdoors.

"The Pastor told us because of COVID, he didn't want a lot of singing."

But according to the National Funeral Director’s Association, the pandemic is also accelerating another change- more families are choosing cremation over a traditional service. The increase in cremations has been noticed for some time. In 2015, the national cremation rate surpassed the burial right for the first time in U.S. History. In 2020, those working in the industry noticed an uptick in the increase.

“I think COVID exposed more people to it because it was more convenient; more cost-effective and more people are starting to do it now.”

Bryan Myers is founder and director of Myers Mortuary and Cremation Services in Columbia.

“More people are beginning to feel like they don’t have to put so much money into funerals.

With the prolonged health crisis impacting wages and income, Myer's said cremations offer a more cost-effective option for many.

The average funeral cost is between $7,000 and $12,000 compared to the $1500 customers get with the basic cremation service at Myer’s establishment and as cases of COVID-19 continue to rise, he said he doesn’t expect things to wane.

“About three months ago we stopped seeing COVID cases; we just didn’t get any COVID cases, but in the past three week’s we’re seeing an increase in the number of COVID cases we’re getting.

To handle the increase in cremation requests, Myers expanded is business and acquired the former Trezevant Funeral Home, a historic location documented as South Carolina's first Black-owned crematorium.