Ways to Personalise an End of Life Service
Despite having a no service cremation it is important that something is done to celebrate and honour your loved ones life. You may still wish to have a more traditional funeral service, even though the coffin will not be present. Just with any funeral, such an end of life service should be a reflection of someone’s unique life. The words of the service and music played reveal the individual and their life. But there is more that can be done to create that personal touch, where someone’s personality, interests and life can be reflected in just an extra touch or two.
Below are a few suggestions that could be included in a service, or afterwards at the wake. Just one of these ideas can bring that personal touch. I recognise it is a time of grief and stress, but sometimes being involved in putting something extra together for a service can keep you occupied and your mind and energies busy at a time when you often feel lost for something to do. You may also have extended family or friends who ask what they can do to contribute. Giving someone one of these tasks to organise can help them feel included.
Remember an End of Life Service in all its elements is your way of saying thank you to someone special for their unique life. It is one of the last physical acts you can do for someone. It is a way to ensure that someone’s life is recognised and remembered.
Maybe one of these ideas is the right one for you…
Create a Memory table
Set up a table at the front of the service space or in the foyer where items representing your loved one’s life can be displayed – photos, trophies, certificates, favourite knick-knacks, artwork, items representing their favourite hobbies, such as a fishing rod, garden tools, a football, favourite clothing items – anything really.
At the end of the service release balloons, doves, butterflies, bubbles or paper boats in a river or the ocean.
Give a small thank you gift to attendees
The options here are endless. A small gift could be a postcard, bookmark, seeds or a seedling, a flower, a memorial stone, cd or usb of the deceased favourite music, bag of loved one’s favourite lollies, or favourite chocolate bar, a memorial candle. If the deceased loved to read bring along their collection of books for people to each take one to read. An item of the deceased jewellery if they had a large collection or craft item they had made. You could also print and give out a favourite recipe or few recipes that the deceased was known for. As I said here the options are infinite and can be a way for everyone present to take home something that really reflects the deceased.
Wear special colours to the service
This could be the individuals favourite colour or the colours of their sporting team. This is something so simple yet it brightens the day and it looks so special seeing a sea of one special colour amongst all the people present.
This can be in creative ways such as photo boards, hanging on a line of string, hang from balloons, a table of all their framed photos from around the house, photos scattered around the tables in the function room, so people can see different photos wherever they move to.
Present music a little differently
There may be someone – a family member or friend who could sing or perform a piece of music during the service. Live performances are always so very personal and special. If particular songs or genres were important to a deceased you could have words printed for a special song that everyone sings along too. As long as it is a song people would know and you have someone to lead, a group singing together can be a beautiful way to unite people and bring a release of feelings.
Have a memory table where people record their own memories of the deceased. This can be done in many different ways and is so much more touching than just getting the attendees signatures. This is something that is lovely to have set up during the wake, where people can take time to record a memory. Memory recording can be in a memorial book, on tags or notecards, on memory stones, on a large board, a memory tree, placed in memory jar.
Memory sharing jar
At the wake place a jar on the table full of strips of paper with questions about the deceased. People can pick them up and answer them with each other and swap stories. This is a great icebreaker for conversation during the reception time.
Have an open Mic session during wake where anyone can come and say something. This allows for people to feel involved and for public grieving. Another alternative is to have a video camera, or voice recording device set up and people can go along and record a memory or tribute privately, which the family of the deceased can look at or listen to afterwards.
Decorate the venue
Simple things can be done to make the venue feel more personal and welcoming. Quilts made by the deceased on the pews, favourite flowers of the deceased around the room, items from their home scattered around, balloons in a favourite colour, ivy or greenery strewn around, piles of their favourite books from home…just anything that says – this represents the person we are remembering today.
One of a kind flowers or personalised decoration
Even though the coffin is not present at the front of the service often the cremated remains will be, or a photo of the deceased. Still decorate this area at the front of the service, as this can bring that personal touch. Have your florist make the flower arrangement to represent an item – football, butterfly, favourite bird, rainbow or anything your imagination can think of. Have flowers, greenery from the deceased garden. If they loved gardening have an arrangement of vegetables. Iif flowers were not really their thing decorate with something more personal – favourite books, sheet music, dvds, bottles of drink, memorabilia items, shoes – we could go on.
Have refreshments of the deceased favourite foods – recipes they were known for or even just their favourites. Meat pies for a footy loving person, Hire a Mr Whippy van for someone who loved their ice-cream at the beach, have a high tea, a popcorn machine for a movie lover, whatever represents the deceased.
These are just a few ideas and you will know if one is the right option for you.
Of course it may just be that you don’t want any extras like this and a most beautiful farewell can still be created and presented without something beyond the usual.
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