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Funeral home manager shares how they’ve adapted during the pandemic

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    PORTLAND, Oregon (KPTV) — More than 2,000 people in Oregon have died from COVID-19 over the last year.

“It’s, it’s been a lot,” said Shannon Speicher.

Since day one of the pandemic, Speicher and her staff at Finley-Sunset Mortuary & Sunset Hills Memorial Park have been working hard as last responders.

“I think that’s a very tremendous thing for people to know that don’t realize what we do, that this has been a very, very difficult time for us as well,” said the general manager.

She said despite long hours, the hardest part of this past year has been trying to care well for hurting families.

“Everything, we’ve had to pivot in a completely different way to be able to serve the families the way we’re accustomed to serving them,” said Speicher.

Speicher said at first that meant figuring out how many people could even attend a service.

“Can we have five people or can we have 25 people,” she said. “As the time period with COVID has extended, obviously we’ve come to a more level place, where we know how to communicate with families and we know better what’s coming, but initially, it was very, very difficult.”

Speicher and her team have also had to learn overnight, how to serve families virtually.

“You know, this industry tends to lag behind on technology and now we’re probably at the forefront of everything to be able to meet with families virtually and have them have smaller groups in the funeral home, but more people seeing from outside,” said Speicher. “Whether that’s Facebook Live or inviting a videographer to put it on YouTube and have that family be able to have that experience of having loved ones gather in a virtual way.”

COVID has also changed their protocols when someone passes away.

“Of course, one of the first things we now have to ask is if this is someone who has been affected by COVID so that our people who go into the home and into the nursing home, into the hospital, whatever the case, are dressed in the appropriate PPE,” said Speicher.

But even through some of the most difficult days, these last responders are still coming to work and ready to help a family navigate their final farewells.

“And of course, all we want to do is create a smooth time for the families that we serve and introducing that uncertainty into the situation is the last thing those of us who have gone into the funeral home directing positions want to do,” said Speicher. “We want to take that guesswork out of it.”

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