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Waiting to say goodbye: COVID restrictions still limit some from moving ahead with funerals

Published: Oct. 14, 2021 at 6:16 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 14, 2021 at 11:34 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Starting Wednesday, outdoor funerals on Oahu will be allowed to have up to 150 vaccinated people in attendance.

Those planning funerals say many families have been waiting for restrictions to ease to have services for their loved ones.

“There’s some excitement for sure,” said Rob Lee, who manages the Hawaii State Veterans Cemetary in Kaneohe. “We get some phone calls asking ‘can we now expand?’”

Lee said some families have waited months to put their loved ones to rest in hopes of a loosening of restrictions.

“There have been some challenges and cancellations or curtailment,” Lee said. “Families would say they’d like to come when restrictions would allow the amount of people they would like to have.”

He expects people to take advantage of the new rules. But until then, funerals can only have 10 people indoors, 25 outdoors.

“When the day actually does happen, it’s like no other emotional celebration,” he said. “It’s a real sigh of relief. With honor and dignity, we’ll help the family out.”

Churches are also trying to juggle the rules. People can attend mass with a hundred plus loved ones masked and socially distanced, but when they go to cemeteries they’ve been capped at 25.

“The hardest part is all the necessary rituals as human beings,” said Khanh Hoang, the pastor for St. Jude Catholic Church in Makakilo. “Especially in Hawaii, we kiss, handshake. We can’t even do any of that saying goodbye.”

Not everyone is optimistic about the changes. Kawehi Correa, president of Aloha Mortuary, hoped that 150 vaccinated attendees would help out the families waiting for their loved ones for months.

But she said that if even one person is unvaccinated, they are capped at 10 people indoors or 25 outdoors.

“Someone that you love for the life had just passed,” said Correa. “And then to tell them, hey, because you don’t meet this requirement, you can’t say goodbye. That’s super hard to swallow.”

She said some families are still choosing to wait.

“Now we’re talking about how do we best keep their loved one in the condition that they would want to see them in,” Correa said.

Correa hopes in the future there will be more flexibility for those saying goodbye.

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