"Of course when you're grieving, you let your guard down," Stephanie Schindler said of her father's funeral

By Maria Pasquini
August 07, 2020 05:38 PM
St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church
St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Lake Park, Minnesota
| Credit: Google Maps

After attending a funeral last month in a rural Minnesota town, 30 people were sickened with the novel coronavirus.

Stephanie Schindler — whose father Francis Perreault had suffered from Parkinson’s disease and a number of strokes before his death at 78 — told the Star Tribute that although many attendees wore masks and kept a safe distance from one another during the ceremony, behavior eventually grew more lax.

“We tried to do everything right, but of course when you’re grieving, you let your guard down,” she said. “One of my friends that got sick was wearing a mask the whole time. But of course when you’re crying, you’re going to be rubbing your face.”

Schindler, who went on to test positive for the virus, first learned that guests of her father’s funeral had fallen ill a few days after the service, according to Forum News Service. A number of family members also tested positive, including her mother, her husband and oldest daughter. Additionally, at least five people were hospitalized for their symptoms, including her brother and sister-in-law.

“I just thought I had to be there and I took a chance and it is what it is,” Schindler’s pal Kathleen Keen, told KVRR. She attended the funeral at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church with her husband, and both fell ill with the virus.

In addition to the physical contact that took place during the ceremony, Schindler also regrets that a number of attendees had more intimate contact with her mother.

“I think one of our biggest no-no’s is that we had people staying here with us and staying with my mom,” she told Forum News Service. “You know you wear your mask, but after a while, you take off the masks and just feel like family. But you’re bringing everything with you.”

Doug Schultz, a spokesman for the Minnesota Department of Health, told the Star Tribune that although it may be difficult, for the time being, large gatherings should be avoided in order to limit the spread of the virus.

“All of us at the department, from the leadership down to the individuals working the front lines, understand people’s need to have gatherings like funerals and weddings and graduation parties,” Schultz said. “As the governor has said, it pains us all to see that it’s probably not a good idea to have those gatherings. And it pains us to see Minnesotans not having these important rites of passage. But COVID-19 is still very much with us. The pandemic is still very much with us. And so gatherings like these do pose a risk.”

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Although Schindler and her family had time to come to terms with their father’s death, the impact his funeral has had on their loved ones has been much harder to accept.

“I’m kind of overwhelmed,” she told the Star Tribute.

“We kept saying Dad would have been so upset that people got sick at his funeral,” she added. “Of course we’re so thankful to everyone who came. There was so much sharing and healing, but we feel like, what if they had just Skyped? This might not have happened.”

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