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View Diary: Advice for a Funeral? (43 comments)

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  •  template for a secular/spiritual funeral (5+ / 0-)

    First of all, I agree with MrJersey that this does NOT have to be done quickly.  You can take weeks or even months to plan exactly the ceremony that will be most emotionally resonant.

    It is good to start by making a list of what you want.  You seem clear about what you don't want, but are you just as clear about what you do want?

    You did not say whether the person dying is male or female, so I am going to refer to the person dying as LO (for loved one).

    I am a veteran of planning many funerals, including secular funerals that religious people also find comforting.  So I will give you something of a general recommendation.

    If LO was not religious then the funeral should not be religious.  If many people close to LO were religious, they should understand that LO's wishes are being respected.

    Someone needs to be the designated leader of the service—like a master or mistress of ceremonies, just to keep things moving in some kind of order.  I will call that person the MC from now on.  This should be a person who is likely to be able to hold it together and not collapse from grief.

    Begin with a time of people just gathering at whatever location you have chosen.  It would be nice to have some of LO's favorite music playing, or instrumental music, as people gather.

    The urn does not have to be present, but if the urn is present, it should have a place of honor—such as on a table that is draped with a lovely cloth in LO's favorite color, or surrounded by flowers, or candles, or other objects that symbolize LO's life.

    If the urn is not present, you could have a photo display and one favorite photo blown up to 20 x 24 or larger.  Or you can have the urn and photos.  Up to you.

    Then the music stops.  The urn, if present, is carried in and put in its designated place as the signal that the service is beginning.

    Then the MC welcomes everyone and thanks them for coming and says something brief about the reason why they are there:  to remember and honor the life of LO.

    If it is evening, it can be nice to distribute candles for everyone to hold (with paper circles to catch dripping wax), and light candles to start the service.  Take a main candle from the center display with the urn/photos/flowers etc and use it to light the individual candles of people in the front, who then turn and spread the light amongst each other.  (Needless to say, this is harder to do outdoors.)

    Then it is good to have readings of some kind:  a favorite poem, a passage of great literature, a reading from a favorite philosopher, or any kind of favorite quote that expresses something about LO's life or the loss people feel.

    If it is a spouse/partner who has died, then O Henry's story about the man who sold the watch to buy a comb for his wife's hair but she sold her hair to by a chain for his watch is a moving secular story about the foolishness and joy of mutually sacrificial love.

    Mary Elizabeth's Frye's poem is another oft-used reading:

    Do not stand at my grave and weep
    I am not there. I do not sleep.
    I am a thousand winds that blow.
    I am the diamond glints on snow.
    I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
    I am the gentle autumn rain.
    When you awaken in the morning's hush
    I am the swift uplifting rush
    Of quiet birds in circled flight.
    I am the soft stars that shine at night.
    Do not stand at my grave and cry;
    I am not there. I did not die.

    If you want to appease the religious relatives, 1 Corinthians 13 is a beautiful passage about the power of love that does not mention God or Jesus by name.  It is the one that ends:  And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

    There are many other similar passages.  Kosmail me or email me and tell me something about LO and I can help you choose one.

    Depending on how long you want the service to be, you can have two or three of these readings/poems, etc, interspersed with pieces of appropriate music.  The MC should know the order of service and invite people to speak, something like this:  "and now Jim will read I Heard Your Voice in the Wind Today", or "and now Lulu will play the Dust in the Wind on the violin."

    Then comes the eulogy, which can be given by anyone, and should be preceded by something special:  a period of silence, the ringing of bells, chanting, humming a single note together, lighting of sage or incense, lighting of candles, an especially favorite piece of music, or something else to set the eulogy apart from what has happened before.

    A eulogy is just a description of a person's life and what LO meant to people.  It does not have to be religious in nature at all.  I can give tips on how to write one.

    Following the main eulogy, then other people can have a chance to speak about LO.  The first one or two people should be decided in advance, so that people are not looking around being afraid to be the first to speak.  Then open it up to anyone who wants to share.  If it is a large gathering outdoors, you may need a small PA system so people can hear.  If time is limited, the MC needs to decide when to end this period of sharing.

    The sharing of memories section should come to a definite end, with another favorite reading, or perhaps more music.  This should be the signal that the service is about to end.  If there is another special favorite song, it could go here.

    If there is going to be anything like prayer, it goes best right at the very beginning (after the MC's welcome, during the lighting of candles if any) and at the very end, right before the MC signals the service is over.

    There does need to be a definite end to the gathering.  If you are outdoors, releasing a dove or biodegradable balloons is a nice symbol to end the ceremony.  Otherwise the ringing of bells, extinguishing of candles, or some other action to clearly show that service is over.  The MC should also say something like:  our service of remembrance has ended, but we will always remember LO as long as we keep LO in our hearts.

    Last but not least it is very very important to end something like this by sharing a meal.  Eating is something only the living do, and it is a powerful sign that life goes on.  Even if it is only cookies and coffee, I strongly recommend there is food afterward.  Of course, a big feast is even better.

    That ought to get you started.   Send me a kosmail message if you want more help, or tell your friend to contact me directly:  truebluemajority AT gmail DOT com

    Politics is like driving. To go backward put it in R. To go forward put it in D.
    DEMAND CREATES JOBS!!!
    Drop by The Grieving Room on Monday nights to talk about grief.

    by TrueBlueMajority on Fri Apr 11, 2014 at 02:30:01 PM PDT

    [ Parent ]

    •  Food and comfort (4+ / 0-)
      Last but not least it is very very important to end something like this by sharing a meal.  Eating is something only the living do, and it is a powerful sign that life goes on.  Even if it is only cookies and coffee, I strongly recommend there is food afterward.  Of course, a big feast is even better.
      Also consider the age of those you expect and you may have some surprises.  Sometimes older people go a long way for a funeral and they need some attention.  If you're going to have seniors, you need places for them to sit and restroom facilities and consider how accessible the place is for people who have mobility limitations.  
    •  i didn't know this was you until the end- (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RiveroftheWest, TrueBlueMajority

      the whole time i was thinking who ever wrote this is awesome! i love her!

      xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo

      Shame cannot survive being spoken. It cannot survive empathy. -Dr. Brene Brown

      by thankgodforairamerica on Fri Apr 11, 2014 at 04:28:32 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Some conversation pieces... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      TrueBlueMajority

      ...may also be appropriate.

      I've seen services that displayed collected photographs, favorite items (in one case, a poster from the departed's favorite movie), items made/built by the departed, old high school yearbooks, and the like.

      The idea is to spark conversation about the departed - to celebrate their life. This can be a very good approach if the attendees do not necessarily know each other very well; they can join in the memories and establish their own connections.

      The word "parent" is supposed to be a VERB, people...

      by wesmorgan1 on Fri Apr 11, 2014 at 08:08:50 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  yes i mentioned a nice display (0+ / 0-)

        with items related to LO's life could be on the center table alongside or in place of the urn.  and photos are always appropriate.

        I was at a funeral once where the deceased was represented by a chair with a hawaiian shirt and several harmonicas.  it meant a lot to those who knew him and was a conversation piece for others

        Politics is like driving. To go backward put it in R. To go forward put it in D.
        DEMAND CREATES JOBS!!!
        Drop by The Grieving Room on Monday nights to talk about grief.

        by TrueBlueMajority on Fri Apr 11, 2014 at 08:39:15 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  if indoors, with today's laptops and scanners (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          TrueBlueMajority, Creosote

          it is possible to do a wonderful retrospective - i did one for mom - and used as background music those pieces that meant something like iz' somewhere over the rainbow and green day's "i hope you had the time of your life!" (just don't use the title, which is "good riddance"

          when i did mom's pictures, i started from the earliest i could find - her in high school with her best friend - to her with dad including their engagement photo up through the birth of my sister and i - all the way through pictures of her with all the animals that entered our lives.

          i loved it when my dad's sister (who was early alsheimers) said clearly from the back as the video played - that's ME!

          her best friend, all those who mattered were highlighted and everyone left smiling - some said it was the happiest memorial they'd ever attended.

          that was the idea - to share the wonderful memories that belong to all of us still here.

          i put it together by scanning photos and making a slide show with music - took about three days.

          i still have that dvd and it is something to share with friends.

          celebrate - that is the joy of remembering...

          EdriesShop Is it kind? is it true? is it necessary?

          by edrie on Fri Apr 11, 2014 at 09:37:19 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  slide shows are wonderful like that (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            edrie

            it is a way to include a lot of happy times, and afterward you can put them on line and share them with people in other ways

            putting images to music is always a great idea.

            i'm not surprised that the sister with early alzheimer's recognized herself in the photo.  nursing homes with special alzheimer's units often use old pictures as memory triggers in that way

            Politics is like driving. To go backward put it in R. To go forward put it in D.
            DEMAND CREATES JOBS!!!
            Drop by The Grieving Room on Monday nights to talk about grief.

            by TrueBlueMajority on Fri Apr 11, 2014 at 10:02:52 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

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