Memphis funeral home gives safe send-offs with drive-thru services

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic is difficult enough, and it’s even harder with the stress of losing a loved one and wanting to hold a proper service for them safely. 

A local funeral home is offering families a different way to say goodbye without having to leave their cars.

Thursday was a tough morning for the family of Melanie Booker. Coming together in their protective masks, a long line of cars stretched to say their final goodbyes to the mother and the daughter they loved so much.

“Where a large group of family members can get together with their family members and gather, and they’re in their automobiles, and everybody is still safe and practicing social distancing,” said Ryan Bernard, funeral director at R. Bernard Funeral Home in Orange Mound.

Bernard said the business opened in what was once a bank three years ago. 

The drive-thru service received national attention. 

“I got a lot of negative comments about it,” Bernard said. “A lot of jokes were said about it.”

He said he’s seen his business increase 50% since the pandemic, and he’s thankful he can provide families who are not supposed to gather in large groups a way to still honor their loved ones.

Barnard acknowledged the drive-thru celebrations of life are far from the same. 

“We had a funeral last week, and I think about eight family members came, just immediate family members, and I just remember the mother, she was so sad because this guy, he was well-known, and she said the whole city of Memphis would’ve shown up for him,” Bernard said.

Booker’s family said they believe the service would’ve been bigger if it was held in a traditional style.

But as some even got out of their vehicles to share a final moment, they’re thankful to honor and celebrate the woman who held such a big place in their hearts.

Bernard said many who choose the drive-thru service plan to do a bigger celebration of life down the road once it’s safe.

He also said he is the only one to offer this service in the state. 

Bernard said he initially tried out the drive-thru concept to help the elderly who might have trouble walking or to protect people during severe weather.

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