Funeral delayed: tiaras, white outfits, turquoise face masks

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Iran "Bang" Paylor, of Washington, left, is comforted by his friend Jewel Parker, during a socially distanced outdoor memorial service for his mother, Joanne Paylor, 62, of southwest Washington, at Cedar Hill Cemetery in Suitland-Silver Hill, Md., Sunday, May 3, 2020. The original funeral for Paylor, who the family believes died of a heart attack, was delayed for close to two months while her family hoped social distancing guidelines would be lifted. Despite not having died from coronavirus, almost every aspect of her funeral has been impacted by the pandemic. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

WASHINGTON – When the time finally came, they laid Joanne Paylor to rest the finest way they could during a pandemic. A church service was out. The viewing had to be socially distanced. Golden chairs for the outdoor memorial service were carefully spaced apart.

Still, the spirit of “Mama Joe” – who, at the age of 62, had plans to return to college in the fall to get a master’s degree -- infused it all.

Many women wore tiaras, and men sported crisp white suits. There were turquoise face masks reading “Joanne.” And the voice of Joanne herself echoed over the loudspeakers: “I love y’all," a remnant of a voicemail she once left her son.

The coronavirus pandemic is delaying funerals and forcing changes to families’ plans for memorializing their loved ones. For the Paylor family this has hit close to home.

Iran “Bang” Paylor and his mother were closer than close. Of her four children, he was the only son, and they shared a special bond.

“My mother was a very giving, generous person. She believed in great strides for the African American community — single mothers in particular,” Iran said.

The first person in her family to attend college, “she believed in education, that it could break down barriers and help you achieve all your dreams,” he said. She wanted to start a fund for single mothers over 30 to return to college, just as she had done.

When his mother died at home in southwest Washington on March 8 of what appears to have been a heart attack, her family planned a funeral for March 21. And then, Iran said, “the coronavirus came in like a storm.”