KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) – Family members waited outside Larkin & Garcia Funeral Care Wednesday making sure to keep a safe distance from each other.
They could not feel the comfort of being surrounded by hundreds of family and friends. Instead they grieved just a few people at a time.
Paul Briones said goodbye to his brother, 45-year-old Eddy Briones, who died on March 17, just seven days before Kansas City’s stay-at-home order took effect. The death was not due to COVID-19.
“Father, brother, uncle, nephew, son. He meant the world to a lot of people,” Paul said of his late brother. “He was my heart.”
Eddy’s family and friends mourned as Paul described the humorous place he held in the family.
“We always looked out for each other. To the family, he was everything. He was the clown of the family. Made everybody laugh. Kids loved him,” he said.
Now, with restrictions over the size of gatherings in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus, the family’s hearts broke again.
“They couldn’t see my brother for the last time,” Paul explained.
The Briones and any other families who lose someone during current restrictions are finding planning a funeral right now means difficult choices.
“(It’s) difficult for our families. They have to pick and choose who comes in and who doesn’t,” Larkin & Garcia Funeral Care owner Sam Garcia told KCTV5 News. “They have to alternate. Most families now-a-days, 10 people is not enough.”
Paul said that was definitely the case for his brother’s service.
“We come from a strong family of faith. We had family who couldn’t travel to come in to see my brother,” he explained. “People that are local that have any kind of health issues couldn’t make it. It was tough.”
In Missouri, all social gatherings of 10 or more people are currently prohibited statewide. While those limitations are designed to keep others healthy, they can still cause extra heartache during an already sorrowful time.
“You are angry and frustrated, but at the same time you know these restrictions are for your own good,” Paul said in consolation.
The Kansas City Health Department is seeking guidance that might eventually allow someone to apply for permission to hold weddings, funerals, and other special events, but only if they meet strict and specific social distancing requirements.
Paul said his family is looking forward to that time when they can show more love for his departed brother.
“When things calm down hopefully, if God protects us from all of this, we will do a proper burial through our faith,” he said.
Garcia, who helped the family grieve Wednesday, said they will be there for them when that time comes.
“All of our families that are having funerals and are not able to have a proper funeral because of all of these regulations, we are allowing a free memorial service at some time at a later date after all this so they can gather as many people as they want and pay their last respects properly.”