|Funeral & Memorial Services
In planning a memorial service, you will probably want to decide whether a formal
service reflects the personality of the deceased more than an informal one. Logically
someone involved in a church, synagogue, or mosque will hold their service at that
Some alternative venues can be garnered from knowledge of the deceased,
increasing the chances of holding the memorial service at a location appropriately
personal and meaningful.
|Leading the Service
Obviously, clergy are likely to be
involved with any service in a church,
temple, synagogue, or mosque, the
program determined by religious
practice and protocol. You can
certainly ask clergy to participate in a
service held elsewhere, too. But even
religious services are being adapted to
allow participation from attendees, with
people invited to share their memories and thoughts after the initial service, making
the occasion more memorable.
As for others who might lead or facilitate a service, the personalities of the people
involved may dictate the best choice. A spouse who is shy about public speaking
would likely defer to an adult son or daughter who is at ease leading the local civic
organization or youth group. Maybe a best friend or sibling could be asked to
preside. If several will participate, it's a good idea for one of them to be designated
with the coordinator's role, to avoid awkward hesitations as to who should do what
It is always nice to find a role for children to play if the deceased was a special
person in their lives. Handing out flowers or programs can be managed by even
young children or grandchildren. Some may wish to draw pictures for a memory
|Choosing the Type of Service
If there are no religious edicts, you may want to pick a theme of remembrance
exemplifying the deceased. Will he be remembered most for his civic activity or his
wild ties and the story behind each? Will she be remembered for her gardens and
charity work or her practical jokes? Are there favorite readings of the deceased?
Bible verses or Zen philosophy? Poetry? Did the deceased leave writings, maybe
instructional or inspirational letters a relative has saved? You could ask friends and
relatives to write up a favorite memory to read aloud or to be read. Sometimes blank
paper is handed out at a viewing or visitation for mourners to write their favorite trait
or story of the deceased. Having those vignettes in writing will mean a lot to a
surviving spouse or off-spring after the service, perhaps giving them a glimpse into
the loved ones work, or hobby activities. Some families may decide to print a formal
program for the service, listing their loved ones personal info plus music to be played
and the readings to be given, but it is not necessary.
Beginning the service with music and ending the service with music creates natural
"bookends" for the event. The universal language of music can be calming, healing,
or unifying as people gather, whether played by community musicians or made
available on CD. In this age of personalization, anything goes—jazz, a Bach organ
concerto, a New Age harp.
|Photographs and Memory Books
pictures displayed at memorial for tearful family and friends as they reminisced .
You might want to ask friends and relatives to contribute photos, clippings, awards,
or other special mementos that can be assembled in a memory book for the
surviving spouse or family.
|Flowers & Floral Preferences
one idea a family had was to use potted chrysanthemums to decorate the church.
The pots were offered to special friends and relatives to take with them after the
service."What will happen to the flowers after the service?", is always a
Sharing food during a bereavement gathering remains a popular practice. The ladies
of the church put on a huge pot-luck supper in the town hall after one resident's
memorial service. But it might be as supplied by the family at an "Open House" at
home or as fancy as a reception at the local inn. "a cocktail party"
With a mobile and dispersed society, friends and relatives are likely to be scattered
far and wide. They may never see the obituary in a local paper and may not be able
to attend the memorial or funeral service. One creative woman used her mother's
Christmas card list, and sent out a notice of her mother's death. Written as a tribute
to her mother, she listed some of her mother's remarkable traits and
accomplishments. It ended with suggestions for memorial donations, to causes that
her mother supported—peace, the arts, and education. This sort of card can be
easily put together on a home computer or copied at a local copy shop, including a
picture if one is wanted. A wide choice of nice paper in many colors is available.
|Planning a Funeral or Memorial Service
A "funeral" service is with the body present and is usually planned within a few
days of death, sometimes in great haste.
A "memorial" service (without the body) can be delayed as long as you want, to
meet the convenience or needs of the family. Scheduling the event in two or three
weeks lets out of town guests more time to make arrangements for attendance. By
not feeling pressured to have a service right away, there is time for thoughtful
Multiple services may be appropriate in some situations. A simple graveside service
for the immediate family at the cemetery followed by a public memorial service for
community and friends.
(See: U.S. Traditions)
Many funeral services may be dictated by one's religion. If the deceased belongs to a
church, you will need to contact the church for possible recommendations regarding
their specific practices and availability to perform a funeral service or memorial
service. A memorial mass is even now acceptable to the Catholic church.
(See: Religious Traditions)
|Things to Consider to Meet Your Choices, and Needs
*Location of Service(s)
*Officiant, or clergy to lead the services
*Gathering Information for obituary
*Picture, or pictures of deceased, along with any religious or fraternity items to be
*Private or Public Ceremonies, family viewing vs visitation.
*Special Acknowledgement of Family Members
*Readings for the Service, and who will be reading them.
*Special Requests or Prayers
*Transportation for immediate family, clergy, pallbearers, and funeral coach.
*Memorial registery, along with a folder to hold information, and acknowledgement
Cards while not mandatory, it is hard to remember everyone who was there and the
kindnesses they may have offered that a thank you note is appropriate.
|Choice of Closed or Open Casket
Circumstances of death
Car accidents etc.
Preferences of burial clothing
Jewelry, and will jewelry remain or be returned to family
Special Items, may be decided ahead of time, (such as flower or rosary) but usually
left by loved ones according to their most treasured memories.
Things that CANNOT be preplanned:
Ambulance transfer from place of death
Application of death certificate
Application for burial permit (if needed)
Setting a time and date for service
Request preparation and embalming
Complete composition or submission of obituary
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