When it comes to planning a funeral for your friend or loved one, tap into new discoveries! Consider elements about the person that maybe not everyone knew. Maybe there were hobbies or talents that hadn’t been practiced in a while. Just because someone’s dreams or interests faded over the years, they still are part of what made the person special. Bring these to the forefront now so that everyone will discover a deeper essence of the person they loved.
We recently passed the second anniversary of my brother’s death. When I think back to the time when we, as a family, were planning this final farewell, I remember feeling uncertain about how to make it special. This was a first for us.
It had been twenty-two years since our father’s funeral, but our mother was of sound mind then and had taken charge of the planning. By the time her son died, my mother’s sense of awareness was diminished from the effects of Alzheimer’s, so we thought it best to keep from telling her anything about her son’s death.
Despite the overwhelming grief that resulted in the shock of losing him, a funeral needed to be planned! Make an appointment with the funeral home, contact the church, and hope that the two can compromise on a date. Select the urn, pick the bouquet to adorn it, and choose the perfect portrait to display.
Putting together the slideshow of pictures was the hardest. Happy images of family ski trips and beach outings were now unpleasant reminders of the emptiness that was quickly taking shape.
1. Choose a Special Outfit
My sister and I were given the task of selecting the outfit our brother would wear for his cremation. It’s a strange thing to consider but necessary, nonetheless.
Teary-eyed, we looked at one another, sickened by the idea of having to choose this final outfit. We knew it should be something he’d find comfort in, something he wore often, supposing a suit wasn’t necessary in this situation.
Arriving at his house, we collectively felt the sadness that now existed between the empty walls. We didn’t want to linger, but, at the same time, we were desperate to envision him in this space. We wanted somehow to capture his reflection and keep it near to us.
It didn’t take long to decide on the perfect outfit for him. The Hawaiian shirt displaying beer bottles and fishing poles, his favorite denim shorts, and a pair of worn-out New Balance sneakers were the way to go.
2. Use Personal Artwork for the Memorial Display
Before leaving the lonely house, we stopped by our brother’s favorite room…the garage. Here, I could finally sense my brother’s presence. It hadn’t been long since we sat in this space together and enjoyed a hockey or football game on the big screen TV positioned on the wall. In the recesses of my mind, I could hear his laugh; the familiar cackle that was uniquely his own.
As my sister and I gleefully reminisced, I noticed a large shoebox in the corner of the garage. The lid was partially open, displaying old yellowing papers. I approached the box and bent down to uncover what turned out to be a treasure of my brother’s sketches, dating back to his early years as a child and teenager.
We always knew that our brother had an amazing talent for drawing and painting but had his coworkers at the maintenance yard known? Probably not. I decided it was time they discovered the essence of my brother.
Instantly, I knew that I needed to display these sketches, along with some of his paintings, at the funeral reception. I wanted everyone who knew him to discover the talent that hadn’t been seen in years.
Along with his old letterman's jacket, football, and fishing pole, my brother's sketches and paintings were displayed on tables along the perimeter of the reception dining room. Before and after the meal, as our guests socialized with one another, they enjoyed milling around the room and taking in all the treasures that represented my brother.
Though he was a modest man who humbly kept his special talents hidden, I knew that he’d be delighted to realize that his legacy would live on in these creations. Many who knew him left the reception, having pleasantly discovered something new about their friend.
Here are some additional ideas for personalizing a funeral:
3. Create a Timeline of Their Life with Pictures
If you like arts and crafts, a great way to create something special is to make a collage of pictures. Beginning with their birth and moving through their entire life, choose pictures that tell a story, representing significant moments in the person's life.
4. Include Their Favorite Music and Food
If your loved one was especially fond of a certain type of music or band, be sure to play it at the funeral reception. We all love it when we hear a certain song and it brings us back to a moment shared with a person. Music brings joy even in the saddest of moments. Funerals should be a celebration of life, so let the music lift the spirit! Couple the music with your loved one's favorite food. Whether it's chicken wings or oysters on the half shell, include something that is reminiscent of the life being celebrated.
5. Tell Their Life Story with a Beautiful Eulogy
A eulogy is still the best way to memorialize a loved one. Not only will it be heard by those attending the funeral service, but it will exist as a written document that can be given to friends and family members while being passed along from generation to generation. It is the longest lasting and most transportable way to personalize a funeral.