18 Aug Creating a Memorial Service or Celebration of Life
What Is a Memorial Service?
A Memorial Service is a gathering arranged to allow family and friends of the deceased to pay their respects. The difference between a Memorial Service and a Funeral Service is that a Memorial Service is a ceremony for those family and friends to honour their loved one and celebrate the life. No burial or cremation is involved and the coffin is not present, although sometimes the ashes are. A Funeral Service is where the coffin is present either for burial or cremation.
Why Hold a Memorial Service?
Memorial Services can be held for a variety of reasons. It could be that not everyone was able to attend the actual Funeral Service, particularly due to Covid 19.
Perhaps the deceased didn’t have a formal Funeral Service, opting for Direct Cremation instead, due to restrictions, cost or personal/spiritual beliefs.
Whatever the reason, a Memorial Service can be a dignified and meaningful way of saying goodbye in a way that suits both the deceased and those who attend.
Different Types of Memorial Service
A Memorial Service can be whatever you want it to be. They are often seen as a celebration of a loved one’s life. They can take place anywhere and any time after death, even years after the funeral.
There are no rules that you need to follow when planning a Memorial Service. The only limit is your own imagination.
Consider first of all the type of person the deceased was. Were they straight-laced and formal, fun-loving and jokey? Were they nature-loving or adventurous or maybe an avid sports fan? Consider their personality; quiet and private or out-going and vibrant?
Now consider the venue. A restaurant, pub or hotel? Or maybe a church or community hall? For nature lovers a woodland, beach or hillside may be more suitable. Avid sports fans? then consider a football ground or other sports venue. If someone loved their garden perhaps hire a marquee for the garden!
The Life Story
It’s ok to tell the life story of the deceased. In fact, it can be quite cathartic to put together a good ‘eulogy’. If you feel unable to do this, a good Celebrant can always help. After all, this is what we do! Ensure that the life story isn’t just a CV. Make it personal. Describe the character of the person, their loves, hobbies and interests. Talk about their relationships with others Their partner, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and friends. Bring in personal memories and funny stories and don’t forget to mention their achievements too. It all makes for an interesting story and it offers the opportunity for those attending to really learn things about the deceased.
There are no rules regarding the type of music that can be used at a Memorial Service. Sometimes it is dependant on the age of the deceased. If the deceased was elderly it may be more appropriate to incorporate some classical music or music from their era. Vera Lynn is popular (https://youtu.be/HsM_VmN6ytk). Nat King Cole (https://youtu.be/PMokVQR3B-E) and Frank Sinatra (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qQzdAsjWGPg).
For the younger generation, more modern music might be more appropriate. Something from a genre they loved. Punk, rock’n’roll, R&B, heavy metal, or middle of the road pop may be more in-keeping. The amount to include would be dependant on those attending. Sometimes a particular song becomes associated with certain memories. If someone is speaking about a particular moment it may call for a piece of music to be played too.
And What About Poetry or Readings?
Never under-estimate the power of a poem. It doesn’t have to be flowery. There are some beautiful poems out there that say everything that you may want to say. Write your own poetry if you are creative. It’s those personal touches that make a Memorial Service so special and unique.
Readings also add depth to a Memorial Service. Bible readings can be used if you want to add a little religion although a passage read from a favourite book can be beautiful too. Sometimes, pieces of poetry or prose can be found amongst the deceased belongings, that nobody realised were there. These could have had meaning to the deceased. They can be included, giving a more poignant vibe to the moment.
Can we Include Prayers?
Of course you can, it’s your service after all! The Lord’s Prayer can be included or even a Prayer of Thanks for the deceased’s life although you may consider using favourite family prayers too.
Do we need Service Sheets?
Service sheets are a wonderful memento for those attending a Memorial Service. It gives them something to take home and keep. They can contain photo’s, poems, pieces of prose and also the running order of the service. Although not essential, they do make a beautiful keep-sake and needn’t be expensive. You can design and print them yourself . But any good printing establishment will be able to do this for you too. (http://www.auroraprintanddesign.co.uk/)
After the Service
Many people provide food and beverages for those attending a Memorial Service. The venue you choose may provide this service as part of the package you have chosen therefore they may have a dining area and bar area for a formal sit down meal or buffet style luncheon. You may choose to hire caterers to provide a less formal ‘finger food’ type of event. Sometimes families all ‘pitch in’ and do the catering themselves.
Overall, a Memorial Service should serve to honour and celebrate the life of the deceased. It enables those who wish to say goodbye the opportunity to do so in the most appropriate way culminating in closure and the sense of feeling healed. This is the most important thing.
If you wish to discuss the possibility of having a Memorial Service please do not hesitate to get in touch.