Five ways to make a funeral ceremony yours
Plan it in advance.
If you do not talk to your family about your funeral, or make your funeral wishes known in advance, it is unlikely that your funeral will be as you would want it. You can take out a funeral plan, simply write down your wishes and attach them to your will, or leave them with your family. If you make your wishes known it makes the task of arranging your funeral so much easier for your loved ones.
It should be personal and honest. Good funerals can be conducted by officiants who didn’t know the deceased, but only a friend or family member can truly talk about you with love. A good funeral is one that expresses intimacy, love and respect for the person who has died. Make sure it is true. There is nothing worse than not recognising the person being spoken about!
Think about the venue. A crematorium chapel, while designed for the purpose of funeral ceremonies, is not compulsory, is not always conducive to a personal ceremony and will not necessarily provide comfort for the bereaved. The choices open to you now are varied and multiple. For those with a religious belief, their place of worship will have warm connotations and may be the obvious venue. For others, a religious building could leave the mourners feeling out of place and uncomfortable. One of the most moving ceremonies I ever attended was at a beautiful countryside green burial ground at sunset. Funerals can be held in a variety of places: barns, fields, at home in a garden, marquis, village halls, public houses – wherever is right for you. Start by thinking about places that hold emotional ties.
It should be unique. I have attended funerals where, at the request of the deceased or their relatives, nothing is said in the form of tribute or eulogy. Sometimes this can leave a feeling of emptiness. However, there are other ways of remembering and celebrating an individual life in a personal way, that are not purely a vocal testimony. You can incorporate music, photographs, video, practical acts of remembering, silence or anything else that reflects the life of the deceased. Make sure that the person presenting a tribute is up to the job. I have seen a small number of funerals somewhat tainted by very poorly presented tributes.
A funeral is for those left behind. When planning a funeral it is easy to concentrate on what we would like to see incorporated if we were there. But we won’t be there. We should think a little about those we leave behind. Those who will be mourning us. What will their needs be? For example, if our favourite music is a little on the niche side, and not ‘pleasing’ to our family and friends, playing it at our funeral ceremony might not be a comfort. For a while I envisaged having the last three minutes of an instrumental called ‘Down in the sewer’, a track from The Stranglers’ album ‘Rattus Norvegicus’ played at my funeral. A piece of music very important in my youth. Then, imagining who might attend, changed my mind. Equally, playing music that has no connection to our life will also not be helpful. The singing of hymns, if totally alien to the culture of those mourning, is going to be of little help to them. I remember attending a funeral of a young man who died suddenly. The church was full of many hundreds of his many friends and colleagues. During the hymn singing the vast majority of these young people stood silent and motionless. Whether this gave them any comfort and whether they took away anything positive from this I do not know.