PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) – In this uncharted territory of what we call “social distancing,” some of life’s most emotional moments – gathering and celebrations we hold dearly – have come to a halt.

Chantel McGarry, 13, helped plan her beloved great-grandmother’s funeral after the 86-year-old passed away earlier this month.

“We had it all planned out and thought it was going to run all smoothly, and then we got the notification that it’s cancelled, and we can’t go,” Chantel said.

According to Chantel, her great-grandmother Naomi McGarry was a trailblazer for women: She was the CEO of Portland-based AAA Appliance Service and was the first woman to serve on city council for Gervais. She later became mayor, among many other accomplishments, including raising seven children. 

Her family is saddened they can’t come together to celebrate McGarry’s extraordinary life.

“She was a good person that I looked up to a lot because she had so many life accomplishments, and I just want to be just like her,” Chantel said.

Finley-Sunset Hills Mortuary & Sunset Hills Memorial Park knows all too well that this new normal is making it extra difficult for those suffering the loss of loved ones.

“I think it’s very important to have some kind of memorial for their loved ones, in this time, when they’re experiencing the height of their grief and we’re really trying to help them do whatever is best for them,” said General Manager Shannon Speicher.

The funeral home is still allowing families to hold viewings and services for groups of fewer than 10 people. To include a larger audience, they’ll help stream a service on social media.

These days, finding connection online is everything.

“We are really encouraging families to talk to one of our celebrants; they will help the family to construct a really touching online obituaries, so friends and families have that interaction, a place to go and leave comments in the meantime, before they might have a service later on in the year,” Speicher said.

Over in Salem, a business specializing in custom cremation keepsakes is busier than ever.

Kathy Presnell owns My Bob Rocks. She said she’s already up 25 percent in sales from last year.

Presnell named the business after her father. His ashes are suspended in smooth disks of artwork and are scattered about the world and she wanted to bring comfort and joy to others during times of sorrow. 

“Now, more than ever, since people aren’t allowed to be together, they’re hurting so much and they feel so isolated, so this allows people to be able to connect,” Presnell said.

Once ashes are shipped to Presnell, she will make as few as 10 pieces of touchstone art for a family or as many as a couple hundred.

“This is just a way they can turn something sad into something pretty and meaningful and be able to share it,” Presnell said.

Sharing in sorrow when hugs aren’t allowed and finding new ways to connect is more important than ever.

“We’re trying to do something like maybe a Facebook Live or a YouTube Live so we can have the service that way,” Chantel said. 

Copyright 2020 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.

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