Families still waiting to say goodbye amidst pandemic

Local News

Funerals give people an opportunity to celebrate those they have lost. But with social distancing guidelines in place due to the coronavirus, many families haven’t gotten that opportunity.

One of those families is that of local businessman Joe Tannehill, Sr., who passed away in mid-April at the height of the COVID lockdown.

Mary Millettt and her siblings were sheltering in place on April 19 when their father, Joe Tannehill, Sr., passed away.

“It felt so weird that we couldn’t just go up and give each other a hug and just try to cry it out together or talk about stories we just had to keep our distance from each other,” she said.

Millett said that, prior to his death, her father traveled to Indiana with his wife, Ann, to be near his doctors, where he ended up passing.

“We were all, ‘we’ll come up and help,’” Millett said. “But the situation with the pandemic, we couldn’t even go up there to help because we didn’t know if any of us were carrying the disease or not.”

Over a month later, the Tannehill family is still unable to finalize any funeral service plans.

“My dad, his remains are still up in Indiana, they haven’t come down yet,” Millett said. “The church here in town has been supportive they, whenever we can get him here they would like to have a service.”

The Tannehill’s aren’t the only ones whose memorial plans have been affected. Greg Brudnicki, Kent-Forest Lawn Funeral Home president, said that the social distancing guidelines have affected the way they conduct services across the city.

“We’ve had some postponed,” he said. “We’ve had some strictly outside because we couldn’t have it in a chapel and churches couldn’t be used.”

Brudnicki added that this time reminds him of the situation presented because of Hurricane Michael, but that the people of Panama are resilient and this is just one more obstacle they will overcome. 

Millett said the passage of time has definitely helped heal her and her family, and she is looking forward to eventually having a ceremony, not to say goodbye, but to remember her father in celebration.

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