“On a scale of 1-10; how religious would you like this Celebration of Life?”
This is a question I ask each individual or family when we discuss the components of a Celebration of Life. Most often, the answer shouted out is a consensus such as zero, one, five, ten, etc. Sometimes a family will start out with say a 4, then may change to a 6 or 7 after reviewing the written Ceremony. That is AOK! It is all about YOUR wishes! Whether you prefer a Celebration of Life with no religion, some religion or lots of religion – together we will make that happen
The main portion of every Celebration of Life that I officiate is the stories and memories of the person’s life. Focusing on how they lived and what everyone learned from them. Additional elements for different types of services may include:
No Religion OR Spiritual but Not Religious
An example of these may include; Poetry, Music, Rituals or Native American Prayers.
May the stars carry
your sadness away,
May the flowers fill your
heart with beauty,
May hope forever wipe
away your tears, and
Above all, may silence make you strong. – Chief Dan George
The Lord’s Prayer or 23rd Psalm, perhaps favorite or relatable Scriptures. A family member will often provide Scriptures or I will offer a few for them to review. Here is one that a father requested after his daughter was murdered: Matthew 25:34: Come, you who are blessed by my Father, says the Lord, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
Multiple Prayers, Blessings, Bible Verses, Traditional Songs such as Amazing Grace. I remember officiating one Celebration of Life that included four songs, five Scriptures, three Prayers and numerous friends formed a line to speak at the podium.
It is important to know that I embrace all lifestyles, faiths, religions and also those who are not affiliated with any religious organization. My own personal beliefs are not a factor at all. Kindness is my religion. I am an advocate for YOU and YOUR wishes for your loved one’s Celebration of Life Ceremony.
Sadly, I have witnessed first-hand, at a non-Celebration of Life, the family input was not allowed. They were not permitted to speak, modify the standard service, insert personal stories, nor could other family and friends speak.
Unfortunately, the norm is to conduct the exact same Funeral (almost always called a Celebration of Life) for every person. The only change is inserting the newly deceased person’s name. I met one Clergy who had Scriptures on his iPad outlined by Categories such as Strong, Caring, Women, Men, Children, etc. That was his way of “personalizing” the service. Hmmmm. It is unlikely when working with most Clergy that the family is given the opportunity to review or edit what will be said at their loved one’s Memorial Service.
When working with a Funeral Celebrant, the individual or family is generally given the opportunity to read/review/edit the Celebration of Life in advance.
I am very grateful for the companionship of open-minded Reverends, Pastors and Ministers who conduct beautiful Celebrations of Life. They honor and respect the family’s wishes. We are certainly not in competition with each other. Each of us brings our own unique style to the Celebration of Life with a primary goal of exceeding your expectations in honoring your loved one.
It is my nature to be resourceful, a connector and collaborator. I keep a list of Funeral Professionals to refer you to if I am unavailable on the date you choose to have a Celebration of Life. Need a Funeral Celebrant in another State or Country? I am happy to help you find the right Celebrant.
Anita Larson is a Certified Funeral Celebrant® who blogs about her experiences with Life Celebrations. Providing uncommon ideas and encouraging her readers to "Think Outside the Coffin®" when a loved one departs from this earthly realm.