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Coronavirus Heroes Part 7: LaVera Hodges helps families navigate grief in pandemic times

This is the seventh in the EAGLE’s 10-part Coronavirus Heroes series. Every weekend, a new Coronavirus Hero will be featured. This week’s Coronavirus Hero is LaVera Hodges, funeral director and embalmer at L. Hodges Funeral Service.

The COVID-19 pandemic brought along many changes for people all across the world, and this was especially true for people like LaVera Hodges, the funeral director and embalmer of L. Hodges Funeral Service.

L. Hodges Funeral Service offered a wide range of personalized services to suit a family’s wishes when it comes to planning a loved one’s funeral before the pandemic. That all changed in March.

“We had some kind of restructuring done,” Hodges said. “The pandemic changed the way of serving and the way families had to accept services.”

Before COVID-19, visitations under L. Hodges’ direction could last more than five hours. Now, visitations have to last for a minimum of three hours with, only four people being allowed inside at a time.

“There were actually no visitation hours,” Hodges said. “It was just viewing hours and those were the three hours where people could come in, view the body and sign the register.”

All of the services done by L. Hodges had to become graveside services with a guideline of a minimum of 10 people.

“It was hard to keep and stay in line with in the beginning,” Hodges said. “But then it tapered off once everybody accepted that this is where we are at the moment and we have to be able to do it.”

Even before COVID-19, L. Hodges Funeral Service offered to do a Facebook Live Service for family members who could not attend their loved one’s funeral service. Once COVID-19 hit, having a Facebook Live service became more popular, especially when limits were placed on how many people could be gathered at one time, both inside and outside a building.

According to Hodges, the only other thing that has really changed is that services have become more meaningful for her employees and for grieving families.

“It brought on an even more meaningful connection with them,” Hodges said. “We’ve really had to focus on the families and on their grief, and helping them through their grief in such a different manner. People that they would normally have with them just because they were able to be there are there. So, just being able to be there and say ‘Yes, your best friend can’t be here with you today. I’ll be your best friend today.’ For me, it brought on a more personal connection with all of the families.”

Another big change is that mourners and staff have to wear masks inside the building, even if there are only two people.

“It’s like it’s part of the uniform now,” she said. “Even if there’s only two of us inside the building, we have to wear a mask. That’s probably one of the biggest changes.”