A funeral is a service for respecting and remembering the life of the deceased. In order to fully remember their life in death, I believe that parts of their life should be entwined respectfully into their funeral service. A body does not need to be present for a memorial to take place.
If the person was musical, then music could play a large part in the service; if they liked books, someone could read from their favourite authors, books or poems; if they were artistic, perhaps works of art could be displayed. If they were a real ‘people’ person, perhaps friends could contribute to the service. Did they bake? Did they play golf or football? Did they act or dance?
Incorporate all that the deceased loved in life into the service that says farewell. This way, you will truly represent them and celebrate the presence they held in your life.
So, some ideas to consider:
• Transport: Instead of a hearse transporting the body, you could organise a motorcycle or horse-drawn hearse, or a favourite vehicle of the deceased. These are widely available and accessible in funeral homes across Ireland. The family could follow a hearse on horse, bikes, motorcycles, running, walking or whatever was personal to the deceased;
• Music: Have someone musical sing a song, play an instrument, compose a piece of music or even just organise the musical elements of the funeral service, or reception;
• Words: Usually, there will be a friend or family member who will feel comfortable sharing a story or an anecdote, reading a prayer or saying the eulogy. Involve as many of these people as possible, as it will make the funeral much more personal;
• Images: Most people have a wide variety of friends, clubs, family, networks, work associates and
colleagues and each of them know the deceased in a different way. Allow them to share through imagery their own personal memory of the deceased;
• Video: Similar to images, there may be videos of friends, family or work events that included the
deceased. Allow someone to take charge of compiling a video with music to showcase during the service or at the reception;
• Greeters: This can be a great way to involve children and teenagers who may not understand what is
happening or don’t know how to express themselves. It is a task that doesn’t require a huge amount of responsibility as they are simply greeting people as they enter the venue and guiding them to their seat or handing them an order of service. Including them in the service is very important for their grieving process and gives them something practical to focus on;
• Pallbearers: Typically, six men – usually close family or friends – fill the roles of pallbearer at the funeral. Don’t be afraid to deviate from tradition: if there are women interested, allow them to get involved;
• Service: Is there a friend or family member who can perform the ceremony or service? If so, inviting them to get involved in this capacity can be another way to personalise the funeral. Depending on the deceased’s religion, there may be freedom to personalise a service;
• Design: An artist in the family or a graphic designer colleague may wish to participate creatively in the funeral through using their skills and creating an
image for display, or designing the order of service booklet or a personal memorial favour for guests to take away with them;
• Reception: The reception allows a lot more freedom for personalisation as a service can be dependent on religious beliefs. Here you can become more creative, choosing to serve only the deceased’s favourite drink or food, play only their taste in music or hire their favourite band, etc;
• Graveyard release: At the burial, you might like to release some doves, butterflies or balloons to signify the release of the body, soul or spirit, depending on your beliefs.