What is a Memorial Service
Many families today want a service which celebrates the life of their loved one. We introduce them to the concept of a memorial service vs funeral, and provide support in designing a service that is as unique as the life of their loved one.
We always enjoy working together with families in what happens at a memorial service for their loved one. While it can be a challenge to put together an event that both pays tribute to and celebrates the life and spirit of, a complex individual; it's also one of the most rewarding things any one of us can do for someone we've loved and lost.
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 memorial service 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 memorial services 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 memorial service.
Use Our Checklist for Planning a Memorial Service
Memorial services 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 what happens at a memorial service, we invite you to read our planning advice page and checklist, 9 Steps to Planning a Memorial Service. There you'll discover how our experience in arranging and hosting memorial srvi ces will guide you in the process.
Memorial Service vs Funeral
It's interesting; funerals and memorial services 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.
What is a Memorial Service
Author Barbara Kingsolver, in her book The Poisonwood Bible, wrote “To live is to be marked. To live is to change, to acquire the words of a story, and that is the only celebration we mortals really know.” We think this reflection is at the heart of a memorial service. While a funeral, as we've described it above, has more to do with the orderly and often spiritually-defined; a memorial service is more concerned with telling the story of the deceased. Memorial services are just that: a time people come together more to celebrate the unique personality and achievements of the deceased than to merely witness or mark the change in their social status.
What Happens at a Memorial Service
There's more room for creativity in a memorial service vs funeral. Since memorial services are commonly held after the individual's physical remains have been cared for through burial or cremation; there is much more time available to plan the event. And without doubt, this allows you to make better decisions about how you'd like to memorial service of someone you dearly loved.
Are You Undecided? Turn to Us
We've got years of experience listening, brainstorming, and advising families how they can best pay tribute to a beloved family member. That means we're the perfect people to help you decide between a memorial service vs funeral. We'll explore your funeral service options with you in detail, taking all the time you need.
In the book Chocolat, by Joanne Harris, you'll find this fundamental truth: “Life is what you celebrate. All of it. Even its end.” As funeral professionals we help families express reverence for life. Let us do that for your family. Call our funeral home at 718-845-5151 to speak with a member of our staff.
Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible
Joanne Harris, Chocolat
Remembering Well: Rituals for Celebrating Life & Mourning Death, Sara York