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Are your clients wondering what information they need to create a moving, memorable memorial service or funeral? They can use this handy checklist of questions to have answered BEFORE a loved one dies. Many of these questions are directed to “you,” but you can direct them to someone else.
Have arrangements been made for cremation or burial with a funeral home/cemetery, cremation service provider, or body donation service?
What is the contact information for that (those) service provider(s)?
If arrangements have been made, has funding been provided through insurance (pre-need, final expense, or other), a payable on death account, or some other method?
These next questions cover the Five W’s: the Who, What, When, Where, and Why of holding a memorial service — important details that will help make a memorable, meaningful, moving event.
Who do you want to conduct a celebration of life, memorial service or funeral? That could be trusted clergy, a celebrant, a talented friend or relative, or another special person. What is their contact information?
Who else do you want to speak at this event about your life? Would you want to honor specific people by inviting them to participate in another way, such as singing, dancing, playing music, or reciting a reading?
Who needs to be invited to your life celebration and what is their contact information?
What organizations need to be contacted to alert fellow members and friends about the memorial service?
What — if any — organization(s) would you have people support with memorial donations in lieu of flowers?
What three or four pieces of music are meaningful to you and why? Would you want a musician to play a particular instrument as part of the event?
What poems, prayers or other readings have significance for you?
What motif or theme best represents your life? Items reflecting your values, hobbies, and handiwork can be on hand at the event, and even given away to attendees as memorial gifts.
What are your favorite colors and flowers (if any)?
What words of wisdom would you want to share with those who want to celebrate your life?
What do you want done with your remains, if cremation is your choice? (Saying you don’t care isn’t helpful.)
When would be a good time to celebrate your life? Would you want to associate this event with a particular holiday or time of year? Does your family need to coordinate travel around school schedules?
Where do you want to hold your life celebration event? If you are religious, would you want it held in your congregation’s house of worship? If you aren’t religious, what meaningful places could accommodate a ceremony and a party?
Why is a specific location for your life celebration important to you?
What other details might you wish to specify? To provide particular foods or drinks? Have a balloon release or candle-lighting ceremony? Gifts to give the guests?
Do you have any special requests for guests attending your life celebration? Some suggestions – dress in a particular color or style of clothing, bring a donation for a charity, or bring a story or photo to share at the event.
Gail Rubin, Certified Thanatologist and The Doyenne of Death®, is a pioneering death educator. One of the first Death Cafe hosts in the U.S., she uses humor, funny film clips, and outside-the-box activities to teach about end-of-life topics. She authored three books on end-of-life issues and coordinates the Before I Die New Mexico Festival. She’s also a Certified Funeral Celebrant and was recognized by Albuquerque Business First with their 2019 Women of Influence Award.
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American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
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