Hennessey supports families after services
Melissa Johnson, managing partner of Hennessey Funeral Home and Crematory at 2203 N. Division, said the funeral home has a chapel, viewing room and reception hall. Each could potentially hold 10 people, six feet apart, but most services have just used one room for family.
The extra space helped when the mother of 10 children, with numerous grandchildren and great grandchildren died recently. The family decided that just the children and her 93-year-old husband—who drove with a son from Minnesota—would be at the service. They just used two rooms.
For those who cannot attend, they are livestreaming services. In phase three, she said, 50 would be allowed to gather for services.
Melissa said Hennessey has served families of three confirmed COVID-19 cases and some suspected ones.
The bodies of COVID-19 patients are double bagged in plastic and come with guidance not to open the bags. Two cases were direct cremation with no viewing and one was a direct burial.
"We can prepare someone who has died of COVID-19 if family wants to view the body because they could not visit in the hospital and they want to say goodbye," said Melissa. "Though embalming is not required by law, Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines indicate embalming is highly suggested for COVID-19 cases."
Using a photograph, she has embalmed bodies of people who died traumatically or in accidents if the family wants the comfort of seeing the body restored.
Melissa earned a bachelor's degree in criminal justice and forensics at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minn. She worked for coroners there and in Phoenix, going to death and accident scenes, taking the decedent to the morgue and determining what took place.
In 2010, she earned an associate degree at Mesa Community College in mortuary science. She started with Dignity Memorial there and moved to Seattle for seven years, earning a master's degree in forensic science.
She learned that Hennessey, a full-service funeral home with the legacy of four generations of the Hennessey family, was seeking a partner, so she sought to fulfill that position a year ago.
Melissa said Hennessey's serves families beyond the funeral services.
"We connect with and support families after the phone calls end and neighbors stop bringing meals. We also help families understand the jargon on a death certificate," said Melissa.
"The best part of the job is serving families," she said. "I learn through the families I serve."
Melissa, who grew up as a Missouri Synod Lutheran and attended a Methodist college, appreciates how families find comfort in their faith—be they Catholic, Buddhist, Jehovah's Witness or Baha'i.
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Copyright@ The Fig Tree, June, 2020