As government leaders and healthcare professionals nationwide urge “social distancing” as an effective means of fighting the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation, many states have taken the message to heart. “Social distancing” is defined as a measure limiting large groups of people coming together, closing buildings and canceling events.
In some extreme cases of social distancing, many governors across the nation have issued bans on gatherings of 10 or more people, effectively shutting down traditional church meetings and other large-group activities. One industry often overlooked is the funeral industry.
A statement released from The Funeral Directors Association of Kentucky on March 16 outlined Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear’s order, which reflected guidelines from the CDC. The statement said in part, “Each Funeral Home in Kentucky will need to make the conscious choice as to how they will conduct business over the coming weeks.”
The Mountain Advocate sat down with local funeral home owner Buford Cobb, who with his wife Jan, owns Cobb-Hampton Funeral Home. The Cobbs purchased the previous Hampton Funeral Home in 2016. Buford Cobb is a fourth generation funeral director and is originally from central Kentucky.
When asked how the restrictions on gatherings affect the funeral business, Cobb said “We are only allowed to have immediate family in the visitation for a short term, maybe about an hour to two hours.” Cobb went on to add that immediate family is considered the people listed in the obituary. Following the visitation, the funeral service and burial service at the cemetery will take place.
“Basically, we’re shut down on visitations,” Cobb said. “The rules being gatherings of less than 10 people, we’ve been told we cannot have open gatherings; and really as a funeral director, we have responsibilities not just to the family we’re serving, but the community as a whole. The responsible thing is to not do anything to help spread this virus around.”
“To go ahead and have regular visitations and funerals as we’ve always done at this point would be irresponsible of anybody,” Cobb added.
When asked how families are taking to the new rules, Cobb replied “I think everybody’s on edge right now, which is to be expected; we’re in uncharted waters, we’ve never been through anything like this in our country before.
Cobb said in order to help families during this time, he will be recording video of the services for the family to keep and share, and he encouraged people to use their website, cobb-hamptonfh.com, to leave messages to the families. He is also looking at options to provide live-streaming for future services.
“It’s always difficult to lose a loved one, no matter what the times are,” he said. “This is just adding another layer of complexity to the situation. We are not able to have the big gatherings to get the support of all of our distant family, our friends, and everyone else, so what we’re trying to do is offer a possible memorial service later.” He went on to emphasize the use of video again as his options to serve families grow.
“I really appreciate this community. It’s got one of the best community feelings overall that you can find,” Cobb said. “People support each other, people work together, the churches are just unbelievable down here. I love the way we celebrate our loved ones with live music, we have two preachers at almost every service. It’s a really good community. People may not realize what a jewel you have here, but the people of this community are fantastic people and I love being down here and serving you.”
Watch the full interview with Buford Cobb at mountainadvocate.com.