Sarah York, opens her beautifully-crafted book, Remembering Well, with the very personal story about how her family chose to pay tribute to her mother. "My mother died in April 1983. . . she didn't want a funeral. 'Get together and have a party,' she had said when the topic was allowed to come up." However, she was quick to tell readers that the survivors did not honor the request. "We needed the ritual. We needed to say good-bye, but we also needed a ritual that would honor her spirit and would be faithful to her values and beliefs."
When Ms. York acknowledge the position of her family; that they needed not a party but a ritual; she teaches us all something important: the celebration of life events we plan with families should be shaped as much by their own emotional and spiritual needs, as their desire to celebrate the life lived.
While celebrations of life are not burdened by social expectations—they can be pretty much anything you want them to be—it's important to realize that the event you're planning should meet the emotional needs of the guests. So, think about exactly who will be there, and what they're likely to want or need. Then, bring in those unique lifestyle and personality characteristics of the deceased; perhaps add live music or refreshments, and you've got the beginnings of a remarkable celebration of life.
Celebration of life are intended to lift everyone's spirits by focusing on positive memories. And as we wrote in the above introduction, if you'd like to learn more about celebrations of life, we invite you to read our 9 Steps to Planning a Celebration of Life. There you'll discover how our experience in arranging and hosting celebrations of life will guide you in the process.
It's interesting; funerals and celebrations of life have much in common, yet they often appear very different. Each is a ceremony; a gathering of people who share a common loss. It's just that one is more rooted in tradition, while the other is the result of recent changes in social values. But both serve to do three things:
1. Help the bereaved family, and their community, publically acknowledge the death of one of their own.
2. Support the grieving family by surrounding them with caring friends, co-workers, and neighbors.
3. Move the deceased from one social status to another.
Yet they achieve those things in very different ways. First, let's take a closer look at what most of us commonly see as very traditional funerals.