to Plan a Life Celebration
by Mary Hickey
A funeral doesn't have to be family and friends
sitting in front of a dead body saying the rosary.
Today many people are shying away from traditional
memorial services and choosing instead to create
a memorable, personalized life celebration. You
may have some questions such as:
Why Should I Have a Service at All? Services
are really about love. You are taking the time
and expressing and sharing the love that you felt
for that person. It's important to celebrate but
not at the expense of acknowledging that something
important has been lost. The best services mix
memories, comfort and encouragement. You need
to take this time to share your loss, to laugh
and talk and share your thoughts and feelings
with each other.
Where Should I Hold the Life Celebration? Some
funeral homes and cremation societies have rooms
for you to use. If you are members of a congregation,
you may consider the church's community room.
Many people are now choosing a private site such
as a country club, university, or a relative's
garden. Where did you loved one like to go on
a Saturday afternoons: the beach, the tennis club,
the golf course, fishing by a stream, football
games? If they were a sailor perhaps the harbor
or yacht club would be a good place to gather.
Whom Can I Get to Lead the Service? Celebrants
are becoming more and more popular. A Certified
Funeral Celebrant is a person who seeks to meet
the needs of families during their time of loss.
A Celebrant is trained to help individuals create
and present a personalized funeral, memorial or
celebration of life service. To find a celebrant
go to www.thecarefoundation.com. Many families
today do not participate in an organized religion
or church. They have no family minister and would
prefer a celebration of the life lived rather
than a sermon. A Celebrant will honor a family's
wishes and will present either a religious or
non-religious gathering. The family is free to
participate as much or little as they wish. The
service belongs to the family and is conducted
as they wish.
How Can I have Family and Friends Share Their
Memories? You only have one chance to collect
everyone's memories. Consider lined 3" x
5" cards that say, "I'll always remember
when we..." or "I wish I had the chance
to tell you...." These cards and pens are
handed to friends and family as they walk into
the service. The celebrant or funeral director
can be responsible for handing them out and collecting
them at the end of the service. These cards can
be put in a pouch and taken out and shared at
family gatherings for years to come. They become
a reflection of ancestors' lives for generations
to come. You can print these yourself on your
home computer and copy them onto card stock.
Guest books are not very practical as they require
people to wait in line at the service. Unless
feelings and memories are shared, what is the
long term use of a guest book? If feelings and
memories are shared, the wait could become very
long and delay the service.
What Can I Put on a Memory Table? Create a table
and bring in things that your loved one liked
to do. For example, if they liked to paint, bring
in their artwork, their paints and brushes and
smock. You could even bring in their easels and
put the artwork on their easels. If they were
gardeners you could bring in their gardening tools
and pots of flowers. If they liked football you
could bring any logo memorabilia of the team that
they supported that you or they may have. If they
liked photography, set their favorite cameras
on the table with some of their photographs. You
may want to write on a note card, "Sarah
always found time to craft the perfect photo and
then share them with usIf they liked golf bring
in the clubs, tees, scorecards and golf balls
with a card that may something like "Look
at Jane's hole in one on hole 7.". Consider
putting pocket charms on the table that reflect
your loved one. Guests are encouraged to take
one, they will put them on their pocket or purse
and when they run across it they will remember
the departed. You may also want to consider personalized
seeded cards that contain wildflowers. The cards
can be placed on the memory table and friends
and family can take them and keep the card as
a keepsake and plant the seeds. Should I Have
it Catered? It is always nice to serve a meal.
A dinner reception or seated luncheon will be
more of a production than a punch and tea sandwich
reception. The food selection will depend on the
time of day, the location and your budget. Did
your loved one have a favorite meal or favorite
type of food? If he loved fried chicken, cole-slaw,
and apple pie maybe you should consider that.
Don't forget the dessert. I personally want Sees
candy served at my service.
Should I Serve Drinks? You may want to go easy
on alcohol as emotions and alcohol are never a
good combination. Death can bring out family problems
and if alcohol is added things may get out of
control. I recommend punch, soft drinks, coffee
and tea. If you choose a beach setting, might
you want to serve smoothies? Did your loved one
have a favorite beverage? If so, would it be appropriate
to serve it?
What Else Can I do at the Celebration?
Consider a balloon release. Family and friends
could write a note on a tag that is attached to
a string on the balloon. You can find balloons
at many grocery stores or in the Yellow Pages.
Also, dove releases and butterfly releases are
becoming more popular.
You may also have families and friends light
a candle. You could have a procession and put
the candles around the casket or urn. Candles
can then be given to families and friends as keepsakes
at the end of the ceremony. In closing, memorial
services and life celebrations really do not have
any rules. It is up to you to decide what will
help you and the people who attend to best remember
and celebrate the life that was lost.
About the Author
Mary Hickey is an urn designer and thought leader
in the funeral industry. She is co-founder of
Renaissance Urn Company, based in San Francisco.
For more information on how to plan a life celebration
www.nextgenmemorials.com. Hickey can be reached
Another Life Celebration
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