What is a Memorial Service?
It is similar to a funeral, and many elements of both are the same, but the Memorial Service speaks more of the life of the deceased rather than of the afterlife. And as the word Memorial indicates, it is a remembrance of the life of the deceased.
What is the Memorial Service like?
It can have music such as hymns or classical music—or whatever music was cherished by the deceased. There may also be prayers and readings The significant way in which it differs from the funeral service is that the larger part of the ceremony encourages those in attendance to share a memory of the deceased. Some remarks can bring tears to the eyes and others laughter--the wonderful qualities as well as some of the blemishes of the life. Often the family of the deceased never knew that s/he touched people in such ways. The stories may be new to the family. This is a wonderful kind of immortality in which the deceased lives on in everyone they knew. Indeed, s/he lives on in the children, grandchildren and even in casual acquaintances—and that for many generations.
These services can use religious language or secular, humane language. It could be for one deeply committed to a particular religion or for those who were not so much believers as doers. No one can be excluded from such a remembrance. Every life is precious and unique and deserves such a memorial.
My service often begins with the words: “A human life is sacred; it is sacred in its being born; it is sacred in its living, and it is sacred in its dying. The sorrow and the joy of life weave a tapestry of our individual lives, as death gathers us once again into a blessed community.”
Where is the Memorial Service Celebrated?
It could be in a church, but more likely in the funeral home, the home of the deceased, or any space large enough to accommodate those who come. Often in the foyer or around the rooms where the service takes place there are pictures of the deceased at many different times of life, such as in early childhood, at their wedding, or in the latter years of life. There may also be mementoes of their life, such as awards received or something that was an important part of their life, such as a guitar or baseball glove.
When can the Memorial Service Take Place?
It could be shortly after the death—but also, days, weeks, or months later. It is usually at a time when those who wish to attend are able to be there. Some may come from quite a distance. At times the ashes are present.
What else can a Memorial Service Include?
We encourage, at the entrance, a large guest book not only with space for names, but also for some remarks or memories.
Almost always I meet with the family or talk with them by phone so that I can personalize the ceremony and choose the many elements of the service.
What Can Happen after the Service?
After the ceremony, those in attendance may be invited back to the home to share food, sometimes potluck dishes from friends or perhaps a catered meal when people gather to share their memories.
The bottom line is that the Memorial Service speaks primarily about the deceased—the life, the deeds, the particular gifts that one had. Isn’t this a wonderful way to remember and to cherish the life of everyone, no matter who they are and their unique and precious gifts that have made the world a better place?
What has been said about the services I conduct?