The staff at Bartholomew Funeral Home in Valparaiso are among those who have had to significantly pivot to continue providing high quality care to clients. At a time when large gatherings have not been possible during the pandemic, the Bartholomew crew has stayed centered on offering a comforting experience to families in their time of need.
Michael Newhard, owner of Bartholomew Funeral Home, believes strongly in providing compassionate care, especially during these difficult times.
“People have a need to pay their respects,” Newhard said. “They want to express their love and concern for their friends and family members. This generally involves some form of physical contact - hugging, holding hands, perhaps a kiss. That has been a huge challenge for people who feel the need for that physical interaction but are also faced with rules that require social distancing.”
According to Newhard, the most noticeable changes are a reduced number of people attending services, and even a reduced number of services in general.
“We’re often seeing delayed services, where people will have the burial service in an appropriately timely manner, but then plan the memorial service for later in the year, once things start to open up more, so they can have more people present. They’re trying to be able to have that closure that they need, and also offer the same closure to their friends and families.”
Masks are not required by the funeral home during memorial services, but some families may request that they be worn.
“A lot of times, we will put in the obituary any special requests that the families may have regarding masks and other concerns pertaining to the service,” Newhard said. “
“If you have a compromised immune system, we do encourage people to refrain from visiting services or let the family of the deceased know that you are keeping them in your thoughts via our website,” Newhard said.
They also have offered services via Facebook Live videos.
“It accomplishes the purpose. Modern day technology has been very helpful in that regard. People can feel safe, either in their homes or seated in their cars outside the funeral home here. Is it the same? No, of course we would rather have everybody here, but it is an alternative to be able to show compassion and pay respect, while at the same time complying with social distancing.”
Of course, hand sanitizer and masks are available.
“If nothing else, this pandemic has raised awareness to the importance of proper hygiene. You’re touching doorknobs, you’re touching money, pens, the sign-in register and stand. All these things, and you want to hug people and shake hands. This has made people think a little bit beforehand and has maybe instilled some new habits, good habits. A new way of thinking about things. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. Maybe we should have been doing these things all along,” he added.
Bartholomew works to provide a very personalized service.
“I don’t know if we’ve had any two families during this pandemic where the service was exactly the same. We’ve had some families who were concerned about certain family members, so we were able to make special arrangements to accommodate those individuals to be able to come in early perhaps, to pay their respects before the rest of the service. We want to make sure people feel comfortable and stay safe.”
Newhard takes a very measured outlook during this pandemic.
“We just have to be patient. We just have to see what happens. We’re looking at this as a learning experience. We’re hoping to go through this and maintain some positivity. We may never go back to what we remember as ‘normal,” but we will eventually settle into some new form of normal,” he said.
“No matter what you do, or what walk of life you come from, we’re all in this together.”
For more information, visit Bartholomew Funeral Home online at https://www.bartholomewnewhard.com/