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When the conversation comes up of how you want to be remembered, people often fall into one of two groups.
The first is the group that wants nothing. They say they don’t want you to fuss over their death, they’re not going to be there to attend the event, so why would you go all out for them. The second group is the people who go to the other end of the spectrum. They want everyone to go all out, include everything that they loved and make a big deal about their death.
I’ve seen both kinds of groups firsthand. I remember in high school, we lost a classmate of mine to a car accident. The community became overwhelmed with how wonderful this young man was. For months everyone talked about how great of a running back he was and how our football team would never be the same. They organized an elaborate service where hundreds of people gathered to talk about how this shining young star was gone too soon. The problem with this though was that very few people talked about the personal connections they had with him and instead how it was so sad that he was gone. Not to mention, his family spent a fortune on a funeral service and reception for people they barely knew.
Then there was the time my great uncle died. I never really got to know him so I didn’t have many memories of him growing up. Before he passed away, he had told my grandmother that he didn’t want us to do anything for him. My family obliged and he received a simple direct burial and that was pretty much it. Looking back, I always wonder why we did that. I feel like doing this made the experience that much more difficult for members of my family because they basically moved on as soon as he passed. They never got the opportunity to say goodbye or reflect over memories together.
For me though, I don’t fall into either group. You don’t need to throw an elaborate and expensive service to say goodbye. But please don’t forget about me altogether either. You see, what many people fail to realize when they are planning a service is that it’s not for the deceased, it’s for the family.
What I want is simple. I don’t want my family to break the bank for my service. I don’t want them shouting to the masses on social media about how unfortunate and sad that my death is. But I don’t want them to do nothing.
Instead, I want them to celebrate my life. But not everything that made me so great, I want them to share their favorite memories, and what they will remember most about me. I know that the service is for them, and I want them to celebrate the positive impacts I had on their life. It would be selfish to say that I want them to proudly promote all my accomplishments, just like it would be selfish to do nothing and forget me altogether. Whether it’s a funeral, memorial service, or celebration of life, the service is not about crying over my death, it’s about never forgetting the special and unique connection I had with everyone that attends.
Too often people forget that a funeral service is supposed to be about remembrance. While it does help provide closure because it allows loved ones to say goodbye, there is so much more to it than that. Many people feel guilty for asking for an elaborate service because of the stresses and financial burden it may put on their family. At the same time, others feel like if you don’t go all out it means you don’t care about your loved one passing. Ask yourself though, do you remember what the casket looked like at the last funeral you went to? Do you remember how big the flower bouquets were? Probably not.
What you do remember though is many of the stories that were shared with you about the deceased. How you learned things you never knew about your loved one. You probably learned how your loved one impacted others in ways you never knew. And you definitely realized how much more meaningful and supportive a hug was in person than reading a condolence message posted in the comment section of Facebook.
It cannot be stressed enough; the most important aspect of a funeral service is not how expensive the service is or how many people show up. Instead, it’s who shows up and the memories you reminisce over while you’re there. You see, a person only lives for so long and creates so many memories with different people. Those memories are things that will live forever, and by sharing them with others at the service, you build up your collection of them because of it.
So please remember next time you’re talking about funeral plans with a loved one. It’s not about how expensive and elaborate the service is. You shouldn’t feel guilty for wanting loved ones to celebrate your life. It’s about the memories that are shared, and being able to say goodbye.
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