​meaningful service guidElines

When putting together a Meaningful Service with your family and friends, some questions:

  • How did this person present themselves in day to day life? Was this person meticulous with their appearance? Well dressed and made-up before leaving the house? Were they more casual or relaxed about their appearance? Did they have a personal style and if so, what was it?
  • Did this person have a passion? Was this person dedicated to a cause or craft and devoted a large portion of their time to their passion. Was this person focused upon their family and the wellbeing of those within their family circle? What lead this person to demonstrate to the world what they were passionate about be it family or motorcycles?
  • How did this person make a difference in the world? Was this person well known in the community or active more behind the scenes if at all? If well known, what were they well known for and how did they get involved in whatever endeavour made them so? If they led a more private life then how did they make the people around them feel through their actions or mere presence? What affect did this person have upon the lives of those who knew and loved them? 
  • If this person could speak to us now, what would they say they want to be remembered for? How would they describe themselves if they could in full honesty and without fear of judgement or ridicule?  What would be the important things they would choose to be remembered for? Who and/or what was important to them in their everyday life?
  • How did they see the world? Was this person a pessimist, an optimist or more complicated than that? Did they have a sense of humour that was outward looking or inward looking? Could they make people laugh, make people think or a combination of the two? What kind of sense of humour did they have if any?
  • How can we, together, create a meaningful service that reflects the answers to the questions listed above (and many more attributes not listed.) in a way that would be truthfully and fittingly symbolic of the person we are honouring and the love they leave behind?

The simple things.

  • A meaningful service need not be long and complicated or expensive in terms of time or money. The more elements we introduce into an event the more that can go wrong (or at least not go as planned). 
  • It is often the little things, the simple things, the unique personal touches that remind us instantly of our loved one, which matter the most.
  • Simple acts of love in the form of tributes can be rewarding for those who present the tributes and those who witness them as well. This can be as small as a letter from a faraway friend or relative, a poem by a grandchild, a favorite drink/personal item on display or given symbolically to the deceased at the time of the service or internment.
  • A visitation/service set-up that (through the use of artifacts, photos and/or music) creates an environment that reflects the person being honoured; their personality, their passions, and their legacy.
  • The words chosen and the honesty of them make all the difference when creating a eulogy, choosing a scripture reading or poem.
  • The best services have tears and laughter in as equal measure as can be facilitated by the personality of the deceased and the courage of those people planning the service.

Some Examples

  • As people left the chapel for the service of a man who was well known as traveler, coloured stones were handed out to everyone as they pass by the urn on their way out.The guests were asked to take the stones with them on their own travels or holidays and leave them somewhere interesting in honour of him.
  • As an alternative to the typical guest book for people to sign as they arrived at the funeral for a particularly creative and outgoing young lady, large sheets of poster board were left upon tables and people could write and or draw whatever they wished for her upon these posters. A wide variety of coloured felt pens were made available for people to create their own unique way of saying goodbye.
  • At an inurnment at Tranquility Gardens of a lady with a large circle of family and friends in attendance the urn was passed from one person to the next in something resembling a “Bucket Brigade” until finally the last person the spouse of the lady place the urn reverently into the niche.
  • At the end of a service of a lady, well known for her unique sense of humour, her grandchildren placed a large bowl filled with candy suckers for all to enjoy as they left the service by the back door of the chapel. They attached to this bowl a large sign with the words “So Long Suckers” printed in large bold letters.
  • When placing a gentleman into his final resting place in Tranquility Gardens a number of letters written to this gentleman by those who loved him were read out loud, in place of an official eulogy. The sentiment, poetry, personal nature and the beauty of these letters was extremely moving.   

Advice to Families/Friends

There are no saints or angels on earth. It is our idiosyncrasies that make us unique, both those aspects of our personalities that endear us to people or infuriate them that make us memorable. For us all, it is our failures as much or more than our successes that have determined our path through life. These things that shaped the person we love into who they are, aught to be reflected in a memorial service and eulogy.

Do not be afraid of the truth! We have all been to services when after listening to the eulogy we wonder to ourselves; “Who the heck were they talking about? I remember that time when…” We have walked away wishing we had had the courage to say something. We have wished the person we lost was there to speak for themselves and tell us all, it is ok to be honest.

Openness and authenticity can go a long way towards healing a broken heart. Set this pattern of openness before and during the service and the quality of conversation with others who knew your loved one may be markedly improved.

Finally. What happens at a service is what happens. None of us is master of the universe and no error, mishap, or technical glitch can take away from the love we share with each other or the value of how you have chosen to honour your loved one. What ever you decide to do is right and whatever happens is how it was meant to be; Love is all that matters.