Funerals, memorials, life celebrations – no matter what you call them, they are important in acknowledging our loss while honoring their life. Yet memorials do not have to be “traditional” services, where mourners wear black, and the setting is limited to a place of worship or a funeral home.
Here are ShareLife funeral professionals discussing some of the most memorable funerals they helped create and the questions families often ask when planning a memorial.
Which funerals are among the most memorable in your experience?
Christmas in June
“We handled a service for a family member who loved Christmas. In fact, he looked like Santa Claus. We decorated the funeral home for the service, complete with a Christmas tree, garland, and other holiday decorations. It didn’t matter that the service was held in the middle of June – it was a meaningful, beautiful life celebration centered around a holiday that was special to the family.” (Steve Marana)
Lit by Fireflies
“The young adult children of a 52-year-old mom told us their mother loved fireflies. I bought craft items to make firefly-themed bracelets and keychains. All of us would work on assembling them whenever we could. I also bought battery-powered fairy lights and put them in potted trees. When we reached the prayer portion of the service, we turned off the overhead lights. The sparkling lights in the trees looked like fireflies. It was lovely.” (MarQuita Cooper)
The Last Ride
“The loved one was a custom bike (motorcycle) builder. He traveled thousands of miles on the beautiful motorcycle he built himself. Riding was such an important part of his life that at the family’s request, we brought his prize motorcycle into the funeral home for the service.” (Keith Fields)
Movie Buff Memorial
“The family wanted to have a full movie-like experience for their loved one, who was a film buff. We rented popcorn and cotton candy machines, and per the family’s wishes, the staff wore jeans and tee shirts. We used our projector and screen, and showed a movie. Similarly, we held a movie premier-themed memorial for another individual who specified the details in her prearrangements.” (Michael Shorter)
Under the Sea
“The loved one was an avid scuba diver. Creating an underwater theme was challenging, but our ShareLife team and a talented local florist transformed the space with the colors and flow of the ocean. It was amazing!” (Sarah Raile)
Strength in Faith
“We hosted the funeral of a sweet 9-year-old boy with leukemia. He made paper crosses for all the people he met, whether in the hospital, the store, church, or a park. His family asked us to hand out those crosses to everyone who came — about 400 people. I still have my cross taped to my computer monitor, where I see it every day.” (Charles “Chuck” Bartel)
Day in the Life
“We helped a family plan a church service for their 15-year-old son. Since they were anticipating a very large crowd, we created different areas throughout the church that reflected his young life. In one area was his computer desk and chair; in another, hockey paraphernalia, including his uniform and stick, and so on. We received a lovely review from the mom. I’m glad we were there for the family.” MarQuita Cooper
What do families often ask when planning a memorial?
Service with Cremation
“Families don’t always understand that you can have a memorial when you choose cremation. We tell them they can have the same parts to a service as with a burial, including a visitation or a viewing.” Keith Fields
Memorials Outside of the Funeral Home
“Funeral directors know their community. They can suggest an off-site venue or space, then make all the arrangements — the same service as the memorials held in the funeral home chapel.” Steve Marana
We Ask Questions
Steve Marana finds that many families don’t know what to ask when talking about a memorial: “In the Washington, D.C. area, people ask for a basic funeral. When we ask questions and give them all their options, we’re able to create a much more personal memorial.”
Role of a Funeral Director
“Our job is to help families through the process. What this process looks like is different from one family to another. I know people depend on their church or family, but they won’t know how to help a family with a mom and dad who can’t stop crying because their son is gone. This is what I do.” MarQuita Cooper
Preplanning Is Essential
“It’s always best when the individual expresses what they want in a memorial as part of their preplanned arrangements. Otherwise, we’re helping the family create a funeral based on their input and our experience.” (Michael Shorter)
Memorials Help Bring Closure
Your loved one’s memorial should be unique. It should reflect their life, legacy, passion, and charm — the things that made them special. Yet one important characteristic that all memorials have is their ability to help bring closure. Grief might always linger within us, but coming together with those who share our sorrow is an important first step after loss.
If you’re planning a memorial, talk to a funeral professional. There are options and plans to suit your wishes and budget.
We’re grateful for all our funeral directors, morticians, and staff at our ShareLife funeral homes.
Special thanks to these professionals who shared their thoughts:
Stephen J. Marana, Jr., Certified Funeral Celebrant/CANA Certified Crematory Operator/Market Leader for Advent Funeral and Cremation Services (Lanham, MD & Falls Church, VA)
Charles “Chuck” Bartel, Licensed Funeral Director/Embalmer/Location Leader Diuguid Funeral Service & Crematory, (Lynchburg, VA)
Keith Fields, Licensed Funeral Director, Oak Ridge Funeral Care (Winter Haven, Florida)
MarQuita Cooper, Licensed Funeral Director/Embalmer/Celebrant, Cesarz, Charapata & Zinnecker Funeral and Cremation Services, (Waukesha, WI)
Sarah Raile, Funeral Director & General Manager, Vessey Funeral Service (Fort Collins, CO)
Michael Shorter, Certified Funeral Service Practitioner, A Life Tribute Funeral Care (Largo, FL)