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Larry Peterson - Straight Shots

Paying respects in the ‘new normal’

Viewers in their vehicles observe the funeral and burial services streamed online Monday on a large video screen set up in the Southwestern Community College parking lot. A radio frequency carried the audio portion of the service, in a system arranged cooperatively by Pearson Family Funeral Service & Creamation Center, Panther TV through KSIB radio and Southwestern.
Viewers in their vehicles observe the funeral and burial services streamed online Monday on a large video screen set up in the Southwestern Community College parking lot. A radio frequency carried the audio portion of the service, in a system arranged cooperatively by Pearson Family Funeral Service & Creamation Center, Panther TV through KSIB radio and Southwestern.

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One of the toughest parts about this surreal experience in dealing with the “invisible enemy” is how we are so separated as human beings, particularly in the lack of the usual interactions we have during tough times. We’re used to having the support system of friends and family.

The separation of people is really noticeable when a death occurs. For the past six weeks or so, we haven’t been able to get together to process grief.

That certainly came to mind as I worked on the story last week on popular shoe store owner and sports official Steve “Magic” McCann of Creston.

If society hadn’t been turned upside down around the globe by COVID-19, Deb and I would have been in the long line of people turning out for the visitation to pay our respects to Jane and the kids and probably share a few hugs and tears.

Memories of “Magic” would have been circulating among many of us hanging around with friends at the funeral home. There would have been some laughter associated with some of those stories, of course, which is always part of the healing.

And, if the service had been held at Holy Spirit Catholic Church, it would have been packed. The circle of Magic’s friendships and association with other officials and generations of athletes reaches far and wide across southwest Iowa. So many former players were on social media telling stories of how he talked to them during games, after games, or at the store later when they stopped in. He expressed genuine interest in them and their lives off the playing field.

We could not gather for such an occasion in April 2020, however. Fortunately, good teamwork allowed for online streaming of the service Monday afternoon, which was also available to view on a large screen from vehicles in the Southwestern Community College parking lot. (See accompanying photo.)

That’s the best we can do in this current situation. You wish there could be more personal interaction. But, if it saves another life, then it’s worth it.

My family recently dealt with this. My sister’s husband is the owner of a family-owned furniture store, which has been in the Mikos and Matt name for generations, much like Coen’s Furniture here.

Her husband’s mother, Mary Mikos, died recently and her online service was streamed one week ago. Mary’s late husband, Wally, was a well-known figure in Fort Dodge as a longtime businessman, and like McCann, for his involvement in a local Catholic church with all 10 children attending the Catholic school.

In normal circumstances, there would have been a big crowd in Corpus Christi Catholic Church in Fort Dodge for the funeral Mass. For Wally’s service, it was packed.

Deb and I would have gone to Fort Dodge last week to support the Mikos family, no doubt.

Instead, we watched online. There was an internet glitch for a time, and some of the recording had to be done through a cell phone. But, at least we could view something that was important to many people we care about, so we were glad to have that chance.

When Mary was failing after a stroke, she was moved to a hospice home. Under current rules, only two people are allowed in the room over a 24-hour period. There were nine surviving children, coming into Fort Dodge from Alaska, California, Tennessee and Minnesota, in addition to John and my sister Corinne living in Fort Dodge. Not all of them got their turn to get into the room with their mother before she passed because of the 24-hour rule. The two oldest were with her at the time of death with others looking through the glass window.

That’s not how we want to spend those final moments as a family, if we have a choice. Plus, those adult siblings didn’t have their spouses with them, nor their own children. It was a bare bones gathering.

But, my sister did notice one silver lining. When it was just those siblings together for several days, minus their families, they sat and talked together among themselves in a way that had not occurred for many years. It was a trip back in time.

People with teenagers and college-age kids who have come home during all of this are noticing the same thing, that suddenly they are spending time together as a family and playing games in the evening. There is nowhere to go and nothing to do, so by the process of elimination, they have each other for entertainment.

I’ve covered some big funerals in town, such as the Kevin and Amy Sharp family and the Bill Taylor service, both at Southwestern. The crowd that packed in shoulder to shoulder showed the families how much support they were getting and how much the deceased meant to so many of us.

That was not possible this time, but I have a hunch that the McCann family understands what it would have been like, had we been given the opportunity. My sister said cards are still coming in the mail steadily from folks expressing those sentiments about her mother-in-law.

Now, as we get into May and we slowly morph back into a return to some public life, we will all learn together what’s acceptable for interaction. We’ll do it at our own pace, probably quicker for some people than others. What we must remember is to respect the wishes of everyone in their own unique approach.

The new normal doesn’t seem normal from a human standpoint. Let’s hope through vaccines and effective treatments, we’ll soon be reaching out to each other to express our love and sympathy.

A good hug from someone can go a long way.

•••

Contact the writer:

Email: malachy.lp@gmail.com

Twitter: @larrypeterson

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