MOORHEAD — Marjorie Markusen of Moorhead has been receiving lots of phone calls from friends and family saying they wish they could give her a hug after her husband of 37 years died Sunday.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic it won't happen.

With the call for social distancing, she can't even have the funeral that she wants for her husband, herself and her 31-year-old daughter and for all of those loved ones who want to pay their respects.

"It's really tough," she said. "We're mourning, but it feels like we can't finish the grieving process."

And this is the time she wants those hugs and a shoulder to cry on.

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On top of that, she wasn't able to visit her 85-year-old husband, Leonard, in the last week of his life at Bethany Retirement Living on University Drive because of visitation limits.

She received word Sunday that he died and was able to then spend some time in his room with him after he passed away.

She will have a church funeral at a later date, because she said her husband was a church organist and would only want a funeral with music and people.

The funeral for Leonard Markusen, pictured here with his wife, Marjorie, and daughter, Jessica, in Bethany Retirement Living in Fargo on University Drive has been delayed because of the coronovirus pandemic.  Markusen died Sunday at the retirement home.  Submitted photo
The funeral for Leonard Markusen, pictured here with his wife, Marjorie, and daughter, Jessica, in Bethany Retirement Living in Fargo on University Drive has been delayed because of the coronovirus pandemic. Markusen died Sunday at the retirement home. Submitted photo

Steve Wright, who operates Wright Funeral Home in Moorhead, said "almost universally" people are delaying funerals until a later time.

What was an eye-opener to him, he said, was that people didn't want to settle for a livestream or webcast of a funeral to share with family and friends.

"They want to come together physically," he said, and offer hugs and share experiences.

Families are telling Wright they'll simply just wait.

He said he'll be busy scheduling services when the pandemic slows down, "but we've had other challenges before and I'm sure we'll figure this out, too."

John Runsvold of Hanson-Runsvold Funeral Home in Fargo is experiencing the same desire by "almost all families" to have a service later. If one is held in their chapel, he said it's limited to 10 people and they spread out the family members and friends.

Runsvold said he feels for families and friends.

"People need closure," he said. "But we'll do whatever we can."

With most people being cremated, he said it's easier to have a burial at a later time.

Wright added that this isn't a good time anyway to have a burial as cemeteries worry about damage from equipment because of the soft ground. He said they have adequate storage space for those who died.

At national veterans cemeteries, Runsvold said they won't even allow burial committal services, but rather people would have to watch from their vehicles.

Wright said he gets asked all of the time about how he's handling these unusual situations.

It's a challenging time. With Minnesota's "stay at home" order for the next two weeks, he even worries about if a family wants to have a small private service.

For families planning services and burials Runsvold said teleconferencing or speaker phones allow more people to participate.

"I've just never seen anything like this," Runsvold said.

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