Practical Wisdom: Thinking About Endings Before They Happen

Pracitcal Wisdom with Rev. Dr. Ahriana Platten

It’s the season when skeletons, zombies, and ghosts roam the streets, delightfully reminding us that we must all face death – our own and someone else’s. It’s something we don’t want to consider, so please allow me to explain why I’m writing about it.

First, it’s the season – now is as good a time as any to broach this subject. And second, each of us will, at some point, find ourselves in the position of planning a Celebration of Life for someone we love.

It's a task we often don't contemplate until it's absolutely necessary. However, we should remember that creating a meaningful celebration of a person's life often feels like the most significant gift we can offer to honor their memory. Isn't it worthwhile to learn how to do this before the need arises? Let's explore the art of crafting a unique and compassionate celebration of life. Bookmark this page so you can come back to it when you need a refresher.

Preparation and Personalization:

1. Finding the Right Officiant:

  • Select someone who understands and resonates with the spiritual or philosophical beliefs of your loved one and your family.
  • The officiant sets the tone and provides comfort during the celebration.

2. Reflect on Their Life:

  • Explore their life journey, their growth, and the impact they had on family and friends.
  • Consider the values and principles that guided their life.

3. Embrace Emotions and Intentions:

  • Set the intention for the celebration: what feelings do you want to convey, such as love, joy, and gratitude?
  • Determine the atmosphere you'd like to create—somber, playful, contemplative, joyful, or a blend of these.

4. Ask for What You Truly Want:

  • Express your desires openly; this celebration should be a reflection of your loved one's unique journey.
  • Share your vision for themes, rituals, location, or any specific requests.

Creating a Meaningful Ceremony:

5. Personalize the Ceremony:

  • Infuse the celebration with personal touches that reflect your loved one's beliefs, values, and passions.
  • Share heartfelt stories, anecdotes, and experiences that honor their life's impact.

6. Unconventional Locations:

  • Consider holding the celebration in locations meaningful to your loved one, such as a home, a park, a beach, or a garden. I’ve done a celebration in a bowling alley and at a movie theater before a showing of that person’s favorite flick!
  • Natural surroundings can enhance the spiritual experience and add depth to the event.
  • And of course, if your loved one was part of a spiritual community, you might consider the place that community gathers.

7. Themed Celebrations:

  • Explore themes that align with your loved one's interests. For example, if they were passionate about music, create a musical celebration. If your loved one was an artist, maybe you’d like to host a show featuring their works. If your loved one loved old cars, maybe you’d create this celebration before or after a car show where their friends are in attendance.

8. Spiritual Practices:

  • Incorporate spiritual practices that resonate with your loved one's beliefs, like guided meditations, affirmations, or intention-setting ceremonies. Candles, bells, crystal bowls…there are no hard and fast rules about what you can include.

9. Acts of Kindness:

  • Encourage attendees to engage in acts of kindness in memory of your loved one, aligning with their values of giving and the causes they cared about.

Celebration of Life Outline:

A. Welcome and Opening:

  • Greet attendees with warmth and gratitude.
  • Set the intention for the celebration. This can be an opening prayer or a simple statement of intent.

B. Reflections and Stories:

  • Invite family and friends to share stories and anecdotes that capture the essence of your loved one's life. Sometimes family members hear stories they’ve never heard when those in attendance have a chance to speak.
  • Incorporate spiritual readings and poetry readings that resonate with their journey and values.
  • Give the officiant an opportunity to add wisdom to the experience, whether through a personal reflection, a reading, or a traditional spiritual teaching.

C. Music and Photos:

  • Feature live or recorded music that was meaningful to your loved one.
  • Display photos or create a slide show or video collages of their life. These can be shown or displayed during the service or afterward.

D. Closing Remarks:

  • Summarize the celebration's purpose and the lasting impact of your loved one.
  • Express gratitude for everyone's presence and contributions.
  • Ask the officiant to close with a final farewell, whether through prayer or meaningful words.

E. Commemorative Act:

  • Conclude with a symbolic act that aligns with your loved one's values, such as lighting candles, releasing balloons, or planting a tree.

F. Shared Food and Drink:

  • Foster a sense of togetherness by offering a meal, snacks, or refreshments after the celebration of life is complete.
  • Allow attendees to connect, support one another, and share fond memories.

Every Celebration of Life service is as unique as every life. Trust your intuition, follow your heart, and let your love and respect for your loved one guide you. Remember that creating a celebration is an opportunity to co-create a beautiful and transformative experience that not only honors the past but also sets a powerful intention for a future filled with love and remembrance. Embrace the freedom to craft a celebration that truly reflects the unique spirit of your cherished one and the love they brought into the world.

Want to learn more from Ahriana?

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