Celebrating The Lives Of Those We’ve Lost
when a loved one has passed, the last thing on your mind is probably making funeral arrangements or hosting a celebration of their life. after all, this person was an important part of your day-to-day, and now they are gone. sometimes you’re so steeped in anguish that making funeral arrangements can seem harder than anything you could ever imagine.
i know this to be true since my father-in-law recently passed away, and i witnessed firsthand all the complicated matters that his family had to wade through to get everything in order. it was painful and extremely sad, but little by little, and with the love and support of one another, we all managed to pull through.
if it has fallen to you to make such arrangements, you should know that help is out there. whether you turn to your pastor or other spiritual advisor, or a friend well versed in these matters, there is always someone who can guide you. the internet is also a wonderful resource. no matter what religious tradition, if any, your loved one embraced, there are many things that would make for a meaningful celebration of life.
one element of planning the occasion would be the cultural side of it all. this may pose a bit of a problem if you don’t embrace the same traditions as your recently departed loved one, but is easy enough to navigate as long as you give respect to the things they value. whether you call it simply a funeral, or a celebration of life, what matters most is that it follows the culture and traditions of the person being remembered.
HONORING THEIR WISHES
when planning the ceremony or celebration, keep in mind specific details your loved one wanted for their passing. for example, catholics almost always opt for a funeral mass led by an ordained priest in a church or chapel, whereas a jewish funeral would be presided over by a rabbi at the synagogue. and if they didn’t follow any particular religious tradition, you’d have more options in how you plan the celebration.
in my father-in-law’s case, we followed all the usual steps of a catholic wake and funeral, opting for a traditional burial instead of cremation, to honor his wishes. we also never wore black to signify grieving; he was never a fan of the color even in life, and so we all wore white and other colored clothing to celebrate the kind, joyful man that he was.
THE IMPORTANCE OF SPEEDY ARRANGEMENTS
one of the things that is common in all faiths and cultures is that your loved one must be buried or cremated as soon as possible after their passing. these days, preparations might only allow you a day or two, so it is vital to get the word out as efficiently as possible so all those who want to pay their respects can be notified immediately.
one company based in seattle, Greenvelope, creates amazing electronic invitations for all occasions. these would be the most efficient since they are digital and sent electronically. they have an assortment of celebration of life invitations to choose from, which can be personalized and sent almost immediately to those you have email addresses for. a link is sent, and the recipient will be able to access the e-card, which will assuredly have the same quality of appearance as a paper invitation sent via regular mail. but certainly, digital celebration of life invitations are much easier and faster to prepare.
ADVANCE PREPARATIONS ARE ALWAYS HELPFUL
did your loved one have a bucket list? although this traditionally contains things a person wants to accomplish before they die, it may also include someone’s wishes for their own wake or funeral. it’s certainly worth checking. after all, a celebration of your loved one’s life should follow a tradition that is meaningful to them. sometimes, this information would be detailed in an individual’s last will and testament instead.
while no one knows the day or the hour of their passing, advance preparations are always best. perhaps your loved one may have remarked on this topic to a friend or another family member. if no advance wishes were made known, think back to things they’ve said over the years — these can be very telling of what they wanted.
IT’S ABOUT THEM, BUT IT’S ALSO FOR YOU.
this celebration of life is a way to pay our last respects to the person who has passed. it’s how we honor them and show our love and gratitude as we send them off. but although it’s about our departed loved one, it’s also intended to give us some closure.
of course, the actual stages of grieving will take weeks and months — even years. an amazing book on the five stages of grieving was written by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross with David Kessler, and this is something we all experience at one point or another. some of us go through those stages quickly and others may never get to the next stage. and as daunting as it is to make these preparations for our recently departed, they really do help pave the way to healing and accepting this great loss.
remember: it’s a celebration of life about the deceased, but for those left behind.