Black Not Required

I've noticed a trend in the last few years. In lieu of a funeral commonly 3-5 days after a passing, families in the US are waiting weeks, sometimes even months to have a Memorial Service or Funeral. Delaying or planning a funeral are good ways to insure all family members and friends can make time in their schedules, as well as financial preparations to attend. Another trend is to have the Memorial Service, Funeral, etc. in the evening, after normal daytime working hours, another way to make it convenient for people to attend. If you are closely related to the deceased and a service has been delayed for weeks or months to allow people (including you) to plan to attend, then you should do everything in your power to go. No, your deceased loved one will not care whether you attended or not, but you will, and so will your siblings, children and others. Over the course of time, it will help you in your personal grieving process too. In the past 9 months I have had a neighbor, 3 neighbor’s parents, a friend’s parent and a former co-worker die. Of the 6, I attended 5 of the 6 Memorial/Funeral Services. Each service (or party) was different. 3 were delayed weeks; 2 due to holidays and for the convenience of attendees and three of the six were held in the evening.

Many have the preconceived notion that funerals are the 'business' of the undertaker, Priest or Minister and whatever they 'say' is what should be said and needs to be said at a funeral. Sure, members of the Clergy have standard scriptures they recite and refer to, for example, the 23rd Psalm is the most commonly recited scripture at a Christian funeral service. But more times than not, a minister presides over the service of someone he does not know. The minister might spend 20 minutes to an hour – tops, talking to the family about the deceased. How well can you really learn about a person and their life of accomplishments and adversities in such a short time? As an alternative to a minister saying a few words, often about someone he doesn't know, families are dispensing with the traditional eulogy and some are even writing their own. The eulogy often falls to one person, someone like me (I've written two, one for my aunt and one for my brother), as many people are uncomfortable with the task or don't know what to say. Speaking from experience, I think you would do yourself and your family a great kindness to jot down a few thoughts about your parent(s), an elderly family member or even yourself. Gathering some of the ideas now, while you’re clear headed, before you need them will eliminate that burden during those few days immediately following a death when there are so many decisions to be made.

The newest trend in memorial services is a Celebration of Life party. These Celebrations are as unique as the families and the deceased themselves. Sometimes a minister will preside and attendees may come forward to share a story or thought, while in other cases someone presides over the event, seeing to all the details, from photos, music selection, as well as designating speakers. I attended 3 of these parties last year and the most unique Celebration I attended was held in the evening, several weeks after the death. There had been a cremation and the family brought the deceased’s bike, cycling shoes and helmet, as well as photographs to be displayed. At the beginning of the service Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody was played, music the deceased loved. That’s what I call “personalizing” a memorial service!

Because of number of deaths and funerals that have occurred around me in such a short time, I felt like maybe I too should do some reflection and personal preparation. With the exception of fatal illness, we really don’t get much warning about death. I lost my beloved kitty (14+ years) on Thanksgiving day. I had no warning of her death with the exception of that morning, she was lethargic. I do not mean to compare the loss of a human with a pet, but only to reiterate, we never know when which day will be our last.

RIP 2011: Chris J, Ms. L, Mr. E, Mr. B, Grandma PattyCakes, Larry M.


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