By Liz Collin

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota funeral homes have been on the front lines of the pandemic for more than six months, taking their own safety measures while helping grieving families find closure while socially distanced.

For more than a century, Gill Brothers has offered loved ones’ peace of mind and a place to say a final goodbye.

“I can’t describe it. It’s very powerful and so many people are missing out on that,” Daniel McGraw said.

But, as a 4th generation business owner, the solitude of the last six months has taken a toll.

“They tend to linger and visit because I think there’s a lot of lonely people out there,” he added.

As the President of Gill Brothers, McGraw told us they’ve had more than 70 funerals for people where COVID-19 played some type of role in their passing.  It’s about 6% more so he says than their typical numbers.

“It’s always been troubling for us to see if they actually died of COVID or died of COVID being a contributing factor,” McGraw said.

Funeral services must now be signed up for and crowds cut from 130 to 50 people.

“Most people are doing fewer than that. They’re doing invitation only. Doing some type of zoom. Some type of streaming,” McGraw explained.

McGraw knows this new normal of staying apart isn’t the same.  He felt it himself from afar watching his own father battle back from COVID-19 in August.

“He’s a 95-year-old. Tail end of the Great Depression. 5th of 7 children so he’s always been a fighter,” he said.

McGraw says in some cases they are just now holding services for people who passed away this spring.

As families have given up on their long wait to plan the goodbye they once wanted.

“A lot of them said well we’re going to do a celebration when it’s safe and it’s beginning to look like nobody knows when it’s going to be safe again,” McGraw said.

Liz Collin

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