Ever since Mr. Salinas was a teenager, he knew what work he wanted to do.
“Death is a journey,” he said. “God is the destination.”
When Mr. Salinas was 16, he had his own brush with tragedy. He said he was driving his 15-year-old sister and another teenage friend when a dog suddenly appeared in front of the car. In the chaos, the car flipped, Mr. Salinas said. His sister was killed.
“Now she’s always here with me, not physically, but spiritually,” said Mr. Salinas, who keeps an oversize photo of his sister, Deborah Lynn Salinas, bearing the date of her death — Dec. 6, 2006 — in the funeral home.
On this day, around the chapel, every other pew was sealed off with blue tape so people would sit apart. A plexiglass barrier shielded his great-uncle’s upper body in the open coffin to keep mourners from leaning in.
“People tend to want to hug and cry on their loved ones,” Mr. Salinas said.
Not long after, he talked a family member out of placing a rosary in the hands of Francisco Tafolla Sr., the great-uncle whom Mr. Salinas grew up simply calling uncle, who died of the virus at 85.
“It’s human instinct to want to touch the body, but they can’t,” he said. “It’s for their safety.”
White flower arrangements adorned a wall beside a large photo of Mr. Tafolla. Mr. Tafolla’s daughter, Gloria Tafolla Gomez, stood silently, nodding her head softly to the lyrics of “Un Dia a la Vez” — “One Day at a Time” — by the Tejano band Siggno.
“He always delivered what he promised, even if that was a spanking,” Ms. Tafolla whispered to a relative. They both chuckled. “We were so afraid of him.”