Unique ways families are honoring the passing of loved ones amid pandemic

Posted at 2:59 PM, Apr 27, 2020

In a time of social distancing amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, many families are having to figure out different ways to honor the passing of their loved ones.

It’s the case for Amanda Stanton’s family.

“Over the past 40 years, he has become every farmer in Connecticut’s best friend,” she said of her father.

Much of her life has surrounded the work being done in the fields of New England with her dad, Scot Stanton, who ran a business selling tractors, mowers, and farm equipment across Connecticut.

“Farmers really trusted him,” she recalled.

For more than a year, Scot Stanton battled cancer. Then in March, the father of five passed away.

“It really hit me going to the hospital,” Amanda Stanton said. "I was the only person allowed in. It was literally only me and the security staff. I was escorted in and escorted out. No one really could say goodbye to my father in the hospital.”

Coronavirus concerns also wouldn’t allow a traditional gathering to say goodbye. So, Amanda Stanton thought of another kind of farewell fit for her dad: a parade.

"My father loved everything that moved: classic cars, classic trucks, and obviously most importantly, tractors. So, it just sort of came to me,” she said.

Like the Stantons, many families have had to deal with the challenge of honoring the lives of people close to them as we are forced to live apart.

“There’s nothing that’s going to replace a hug,” said Noha Waibsnaider, who created a platform for people to post memorials.

To Waibsnaider, being physically distant, doesn't mean it has to feel that way, so she started the site GatheringUs. She says in the past three months, there's been a 500 percent increase in web traffic, as the outbreak forced more people to stay home. The website also organizes virtual funerals.

“The thing I’ve been struck most by is in a regular funeral people are usually seated in rows, so mostly what you see is people’s back. In a virtual funeral, you see everyone’s faces, which is actually pretty powerful,” Waibsnaider said.

The Stantons watched as one face after another passed by in the parade honoring their father in Connecticut.

“My family members and I stood 6 feet apart and just waved, and people were able to say goodbye,” Amanda Stanton said.

She thinks close to 600 people came to say goodbye, including dozens of people on tractors.

It was a moment showing, whether on a street or online, a service can be less about physical closeness and more about the memories you'll always hold onto.

“He would have loved it,” Amanda Stanton said. “I'm still getting texts and phone calls, saying it’s the most powerful wake they’ve ever been to.”