A few years ago, my paternal grandmother passed away after a long and grueling illness – first battling breast cancer and later leukemia. She was a strong woman and put up a good fight, never letting her diagnosis or treatment keep her from enjoying everyday life. But, in 2014, the doctors ran out of options and she ran out of time. After a brief hospice stay, she passed away in early November – with grandpa holding her hand.
Her funeral was what many people would call “traditional” – an immediate cremation followed by a formal visitation for friends and community members, a somber memorial service at the local church, a lunch reception at the community center and a short graveside service at the Veterans cemetery. It was a full and meaningful day for our family, but not a memorable one. Nothing about the service felt like a tribute to the woman we knew – full of life, laughter and more than a little sage advice. It felt like her service could have been anyone’s service – the flowers and urn there to honor anyone’s grandmother. Nothing about it felt personal, except perhaps the stories we shared as a family while we picked at leftover ham buns and potato salad.
In late November the following year, my youngest cousin, Drew, inexplicably collapsed during basketball practice. He went into cardiac arrest and never regained consciousness. When we held his funeral a few weeks later, it was under a cloud of grief and confusion – how could an otherwise healthy 16-year-old athlete slip away so quickly?
As you can imagine, our approach to Drew’s funeral was different than the way we thought about grandma’s services. Though both were cremated, my uncle felt very strongly that his son’s classmates would benefit from an open casket and visitation. The viewing lasted for hours – a steady stream of family, friends, teammates and teachers lined up in the halls of the high school, some waiting two or three hours to pay their respects.
We held Drew’s funeral in the high school gymnasium, with his name lit up on the scoreboard above a red bowtie – his favorite accessory. The funeral home staff had dressed him in his jersey, the same one worn to the funeral by his former teammates. Every member of his graduating class wore a red bowtie, even some of the teachers. When my family followed the casket into the service, we did so wearing red shirts and blue jeans.
During the service, dozens of teachers and friends shared stories of their time with Drew, some sweet, others funny – all memorable. The luncheon afterward was catered by his favorite barbeque restaurant. Afterward, my uncle and his friends lined up their Harley Davidsons and revved each engine as the hearse passed by on its way to the crematory.
Drew’s service was tailor-made and designed for him – every moment felt like a unique celebration of his life. It was a meaningful day for my family. But, unlike my grandmother’s service, it was also a memorable one for everyone who attended, and many who didn’t attend have since heard stories about the experience.
Very little about the customization at my cousin’s funeral was expensive. It cost nothing to put his name up on the scoreboard or have his classmates share their memories. The lunch was going to be catered anyway, so why not use his favorite restaurant? Even the bowties were inexpensive – a simple online purchase with a small up charge for overnight shipping.
(Story from Danielle Burmeister, Homesteaders’ Marketing Communications Lead)
So the question to ask is how do you create a memorable celebration of life and not just a ho hum unremarkable funeral? What are some funeral, memorial or celebration of life ideas that will make this funeral personal? How can I create more than a funeral but an event that will be memorable and truly reflect on the life of my love one?
Start by asking yourself these questions:
• What can we display to honor their hobbies or interests?
• What can attendees wear to celebrate his/her passions?
• What can we serve to eat/drink that will help remember him/her?
• What can we give attendees that will remind them of their loved one?
We believe that once you ask yourself these questions and get creative you will be on your way to creating an everlasting tribute to your loved one that will live on in the memories of your friends and family. Click here for some helpful memorial ideas.
Some examples of our top selling items to give attendees are: