Have you noticed that the traditional funeral leaves you feeling sad and empty? Read the examples below of very unique and unforgettable life celebrations. These go way beyond what you’ve thought a funeral or memorial service is supposed to be. Had we not experienced a funeral and thought that was the norm maybe we would have been planning and attending fabulous events like the ones you’ll read about. Perhaps they will inspire you with some ideas to create a lasting tribute to your loved ones that friends and family will never forget. I wish you the best on your journey to truly personalize and capture the unique and special life that was lived.
Alicia Johnson, a self proclaimed wine connoisseur prearranged her service to include four separate wine tasting ceremony stations established in her garden at her suburban home. Her family and friends walked to each of the four stations, tasted wine and experienced the important areas of her life. At the first one, they listened to some of her favorite music while enjoying one particular wine she had invested in and talked amongst themselves about Alicia, her wine and her music. At the second ceremony station the funeral director provided each attendee with a message card to write words of comfort to the family if they chose while enjoying a different wine and hearing her husband talk of their life together. At the third ceremony station beneath an outdoor tent they tearfully watched Alicia in a video in which she talked to them from her bed just weeks before her death. She had heartfelt and loving messages to more than ten members of her family and friends.
Jack Killington, was a fifty two year old member of the Mohawks jogging club. To conclude his service, while he rode in the hearse he was escorted on ether side by tearful jogging Mohawk club members for the two miles to the cemetery.
Dave had a love for animals and had many safari adventures with his wife Margaret. It seemed appropriate to make animals the focus of his celebration of life.
At Dave’s service:
Funeral attendees were invited to greet the family under an outdoor tent outside of the zoo gates where coffee and cocktails were served, and an opportunity for informal social exchange between family and friends was provided. They were given a 10-inch square memorial folder imprinted with the ceremony agenda and pictures of Dave throughout his life.
At the appointed service time, family and friends boarded one of several waiting zoo trains and began a slow Ride to the first “ceremony presentation,” this one in front of the outdoor bear pavilion. At this station, several tripods held enlarged photographs of animals that had been taken by Dave. These were on display next to a podium with a microphone.
Once family and friends disembarked the trains and gathered around the podium, Dave’s wife, Margaret, began a discussion of her husband and, in particular, their safari experiences and devotion and love for animals. At the conclusion of her remarks, she invited others to share memories and recollections of her husband. The group then re-boarded the trains for the short ride to the next “ceremony Station”.
At the second stop, at the lions’ pavilion, several more tripods displayed blown-up articles about Dave, his work and his devotion to the animals, and a display table held Dave’s PETA awards and PETA donation envelopes. Dave’s closest friend, Don Strattermier, began the presentation, talking about his friendship with Dave and Dave’s love for animals. He then introduced Christine, who related her “behind the scenes” experience of Dave’s work in PETA, sharing several little known but admiral successes and breakthroughs he had accomplished on behalf of animal rights. At the conclusion of her remarks attendees were given another opportunity to make spontaneous remarks.
The entourage re-boarded the trains and proceeded to the zoo arboretum. Chairs facing a large screen enabled family and friends to sit while viewing an eight-minute slide presentation of the deceased life; photographs taken from the family album depicted Dave from his childhood to present, including several safari scenes. The very last picture was a close-up of Dave’s face. While that photograph remained on the screen, attendees heard four rings of a telephone, followed by Dave’s voice on his personal home message machine, a message most of the audience was familiar with: “Hi, this is Dave. I’m on safari, leave me a message and I hope to meet you along the trail somewhere someday.” Following the slide presentation, each person was given a three-by-five card and pen to write a message to Dave and/or Margaret.
Following the slide presentation, an opportunity was provided for those who cared to, to pay their last respects to the deceased, whose casketed body lay in state among the foliage and flowers of the arboretum. As they went by the casket, each was greeted by Margaret who received their message cards, hugs and loving words.
At the conclusion of the viewing, the funeral procession was formed in the zoo parking lot for the trip to the cemetery.
The casketed body was hoisted atop of Dave’s beloved 75 year old elephant Tranzago which began a slow trek to “The Teachers Valley”; a well groomed animal cemetery at the zoo, followed by friends and family on foot. Prior permission had been obtained from the local city Mayors office for the burial.
Although the family was not religious, the funeral director felt that Dave had lived a spiritual life and suggested that a local Buddhist devotee and friend of Dave and Margaret who could draw those parallels between his devotion to animals and his spirituality be asked to make brief remarks to that effect at the committal service.
The funeral director also suggested that Don Strattermier remain at the gravesite until the casket was lowered and the graved filled. It should be noted that Tranzago refused to leave the burial site until the burial was complete.
Mary Hickey is an urn designer and thought leader in the funeral industry. For some drastically needed new life celebration ideas, contemporary memorial poems and verses visit her site http://www.nextgenmemorials.com She is co-founder of Renaissance Urn Company, based in San Francisco. Hickey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.