The percentage of people choosing cremation over burial is increasing in the U.S., according to the National Funeral Directors Association. Reasons for the increase include a desire to be eco-friendly, to save money or to have more options for where and how to deal with the remains (including keeping them on a mantel or scattering them over the loved one's favorite place). Families who choose cremation often elect to have a memorial service rather than a funeral.
Put together a slide show about the departed individual. Use candid shots rather than professional photography sessions so people can see who this person really was and what he was like. You could add narration to the slide show that tells a little bit about each event depicted. The slide show can run while people are gathering for the service or while mourners come to meet the family. If used during the service, you could follow it with brief words from those who played a significant role in his life. You can place the cremation urn in a central location or leave it at home.
Themed Memorial Serivce
Choose a location that was significant to the departed, such as the garden she loved, the lake where he fished or the library where she read to children each week. Decorate the memorial area with representations of this individual and his passion. For example, decorate with potted plants to add to the garden or bring his favorite fishing pole and a trophy catch he had stuffed. Invite those who attend to bring items that recall the deceased, such as cookbooks she treasured or afghans she knitted. Invite people to share a bit about the item they brought. If the location is outdoors or near where you plan to bury or scatter the ashes, you can ask the guests to join the family as they deposit the ashes in the final resting place.
The family may decide to have a private ceremony within a week of the death. This memorial service can allow them to begin the work of grief. The service may occur where the person lived so leave-taking occurs in familiar surroundings. Family members could each leave with a single, small item, such as a picture or a book, to take home as a remembrance, or the deceased could have designated an item for each family member. A larger memorial service for friends and co-workers could occur later at a public location with the internment or scattering of ashes.
Hold your memorial service outside in a park or large area. Provide each guest with a biodegradable balloon and marker to write words of release on the balloon. Allow the guests to quietly speak words of remembrance and good-bye to the deceased. When all is quiet, release the balloons and allow them to float away, Alternatively, you could release birds or butterflies instead of balloons as the family scatters the ashes. The guests can write release messages on cards that can be collected after the service and placed in a memory book.
Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.
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