Eyes have been opened during this pandemic to the reality of death and it has people thinking ahead in pre-planning their funeral and burial arrangements. Register file photo

Pandemic opens eyes to pre-planning funerals

  • October 31, 2020

Due to the global health crisis caused by COVID-19, it appears more people are considering the reality of death and making preparations for the inevitable.

Since the start of the pandemic, Catholic Cemeteries and Funeral Services of the Archdiocese of Toronto has seen an uptick in those seeking to get their affairs in order.

“When we were in the early stages of coronavirus and death rates were quite high and you were seeing the mortality rate go up in nursing homes, it made people think about end of life,” said Amy Profenna, director of marketing and public relations for Catholic Cemeteries.

Through its various services, which include arranging for cremation, funeral services and selecting burial location, Catholic Cemeteries helps make the process as seamless as possible.

“People are feeling vulnerable and because of the pandemic they are thinking about the need to finalize their Wills, power of attorney, funeral and cemetery arrangements,” said Profenna. “During these uncertain times, many have called us with questions about making funeral and cemetery arrangements, which is a vital part of estate planning.”

Profenna recommends individuals inform their loved ones about the arrangements they have made and provide them documentation to avoid any confusion and conflict. From experience, she says, it is particularly important to let your loved ones know if you have selected cremation to avoid any uncertainty at the time of death.

“Although pre-arranging one’s funeral and cemetery arrangements can feel overwhelming and daunting, those who have done so tell me that they have gained peace of mind and a sense of relief knowing that their final wishes are met and they have secured a final resting place in sacred ground,” said Profenna. “The idea that they have relieved family members of having to make difficult emotional decisions at the time of death gives those who have arranged in advance a good feeling that things are taken care of.”

One of the benefits of pre-arranging, Profenna says, can be financial. While allowing families to work within a budget they can afford, there is the added benefit of paying today’s prices. Catholic Cemeteries offers families zero-per-cent interest financing, flexible payment terms and no HST on select service fees.

“Talk to any lawyer now, since COVID started, they are really busy with updating people’s Wills,” said Profenna. “Advance planning makes good sense financially as it allows a family to work within a budget that they can afford.”

Throughout the pandemic, the various funeral homes and cemetery offices of Catholic Cemeteries have remained accessible by telephone, e-mail or scheduled appointment to serve families. A number of restrictions have been put in place in accordance with provincial government, public health authorities and the Bereavement Authority of Ontario guidelines. These guidelines have placed a number of limitations on funeral services, including restricting the numbers who can attend.

In addition to physical distancing, mandatory masks and hand sanitation, precautions also include Plexiglass installations to help prevent potential viral spread. Cemetery gates and mausolea have remained open, however, for visitation each day.

Though handshake and hug restrictions are in place as in other public spaces, by remaining attentive to protocol, staff is ensuring people continue to feel cared for through knowing they are entering a safe, and helpful, atmosphere. 

“These are difficult times and they have caused restrictions upon our life,” said Cardinal Thomas Collins in a public message about funeral services and bereavement in the early part of the pandemic. “Because of our desire to follow the will of the Lord to care for one another, to love our neighbour, it is important that to do that we follow certain restrictions.”

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