LENEXA, Kan. — Even during a pandemic, some Memorial Day customs carry on.
Metro families crowd into cemeteries this weekend, paying their respects while protecting themselves from coronavirus as they visit the graves of lost loved ones.
However, directors at Resurrection Cemetery in Lenexa were forced to cancel the annual Memorial Day Mass, which dates back at least 20 years. The decision to cancel the gathering, according to Sharon Vallejo, President of Catholic Cemeteries of Northeast Kansas, came at the last minute. Vallejo said cemetery directors wanted to remain on the safe side.
“The board of directors got together and made that decision based on the gatherings this Memorial Day mass brings,” Vallejo said.
Vallejo said the annual mass service, which is open to the public, typically brings as many as 500 people to the cemetery. The service is usually held in the veterans section of the cemetery, which sits at 83rd and Quivira. However, while COVID-19 continues to make the rounds, the big gathering didn’t seem safe.
“It’s just the new norm, and we have to get used to it for awhile, I’m afraid,” Vallejo said.
On Saturday, crowds went to the cemeteries with flowers in hand anyway. Cemetery staffers told FOX4 News masks aren’t mandatory, but they’re encouraged, and social distancing is also stressed as being a good idea.
Debbie Smith and Jane Anderson came to put flowers on the grave of Jane’s daughter, Erica. Smith said they look forward to doing that every year.
“People have got to come out here, and show their respect and their love for their family. They feel closer to them when they’re out here. That’s not going to stop them at all. They’ll wear their mask when they have to, but people will still come out,” Smith said.
Resurrection Cemetery also hosted a few funeral services on Saturday, where attendees could be seen wearing masks. Funerals continued in Kansas throughout the pandemic, as that industry was deemed essential by state health officials.