Trends for end-of-life rituals are rapidly changing. Whereas, traditionally, in the US and most of the western world, the typical funeral was led by a funeral director or clergy, today's memorial service is much more personalized, and reflects the spirit of the loved one who has passed.
Planning a memorial service is a great opportunity to reflect upon the unique trait of your loved one. Where did the loved one enjoy spending free time? Did he/she enjoy music? If so, what type of music really made him/her smile? Did he/ she have favorite pastimes or hobbies?
To plan a memorial service for someone who loved to spend time outdoors, and relished in nature's beauty, an outdoor celebration is a wonderful way in which to honor that affinity. The next decision to make might be the location of the celebration. There are parks, beaches, private and/or public properties. A man who loved to garden and spent his happiest days at home could be honored with a lovely gathering in his yard. A woman who had spent her last years studying landscape design might be honored at a venue with lovely gardens.
A decision will be required as to who will officiate the memorial service. Many people have an affiliation with a religious group. The leader from that community would be a likely choice. Others, as is quite common in today's society, don't accede to a religious denomination, so they might choose a secular officiant. Many people use a celebrant, who has some knowledge in many faiths, yet can customize a ceremony to respective beliefs and ideas. There may be favorite poems or other readings that can be incorporated into the service. Friends and family might also help to present some of these offerings.
Music is often an effective way to reflect the personality and spirit of your loved one. Many people have “favorite songs,” or songs with lyrics that are meaningful to him or her. Friends and relatives often compile music play lists of songs that were enjoyed by the person being honored. Thanks to the convenience of modern technology, these playlists can be digitally recorded and handed out after the service, as wonderful memorial keepsake.
Another consideration is time of day. Many memorial services are followed by a meal, or some type of fellowship. This is often catered so that the family can focus on other things. A fun way of sharing in the memorial is by asking friends and family to bring some food to share. And, of course, it's always nice to serve a dish that was favored by the person being honored.
One of the advantages to planning a memorial service is that the friends and family can decide on a date for the memorial service. Unlike traditional funerals, where the ceremony must take place within a certain time period, a memorial service can be planned for anytime following the passing. Since so many friends and family are transient today, it's nice to be able to plan a convenient time so that close friends and family have time to plan for travel.
While a memorial service can follow a planned agenda, it's also acceptable, and increasingly common, to allow for a segment of time within the program, where friends and family can share stories, thoughts and blessings. It's a great way to remember your loved one, and to appreciate all that he or she contributed to the world.
Don't forget to think about decorating the space. Did your loved one have a favorite color? A space can be personalized with flowers, fabric, mementos, and photos. Any personal touch that reminds us of our loved one adds so much to the memorial service. It is, after all, a celebration of a life, so it's great to incorporate as many unique, personal touches that reflect your loved one's spirit as possible.
A guest register book is also a great addition. It can be surprising how quickly we might forget every person who attended a memorial service. We are often overwhelmed with emotion. Alternatively, there might be people in attendance who were not expected, yet their presence is so meaningful. Looking back on a guest register book from the future will help us to appreciate that support.
Planning a memorial service in a personal way can help us process grief. It provides space to remember all that made a loved one unique. We are, after all, unique and individual. A well-planned memorial service can highlight that uniqueness.