Families forced to choose who can attend funerals as coronavirus orders disrupt gatherings larger than 10

HOUSTON – Funeral homes around the Houston area are making changes to comply with Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order regarding coronavirus.

“In accordance with the guidelines for the president and the CDC, every person in Texas shall avoid social gatherings in groups of more than 10 people," the order reads.

Cynthia Young and John Broussard are planning a funeral for Norma Jones, who died Tuesday morning.

“She was the greatest mother on earth,” Broussard said. “If anybody needed anything, anybody needed help, she was just a godsend. She was an angel.”

Limited to 10 people at his mother’s funeral — including religious leaders — Broussard has had to make some tough decisions.

His aunt, Cynthia Young, will not be able to attend.

“[Norma] has three sisters, grandchildren and a brother — so that’s more than ten,” Young said. “The nieces and nephews and cousins won’t be able to come. I understand both sides. It’s hard either way.”

To accommodate large families, many funeral homes, like Serenity Mortuary, will stream funeral services online.

“We’re trying to be as inventive as possible,” Pastor Roydrick Miller said. “At the same time, respect the family’s wishes to allow them to have the closure that they need.”

According to Miller, at least 15 people each day have called the mortuary to inquire about pushing back burial dates.

That option is not viable for those of the Jewish faith, said Eric Bishop, Levy Funeral Director.

“It is tradition to bury before the second sunset,” Bishop said.

Keeping with tradition, Bishop said, is paramount during uncertain times such as this one.

“One of the things we are doing is we are offering the families to do the burial now and do a memorial service at a later date when things have calmed down,” Bishop said.

According to Miller, the coronavirus pandemic is forcing all funeral homes to think outside the box.

“We want to keep the public safe,” Miller said. “But at the same time, the family needs their mental closure.”