It's not something we want to think about, but at some point most of us will have to plan a service of remembrance for a parent. It will be easier for all involved if you take the time to do a little advanced planning. It is also very considerate to incorporate your parent in the planning. Here are things you should ask them:
1. Do you have any favorite songs or congregational hymns you would like included in your service? (If they need to look at a church hymnal, call the church and ask to borrow one for a couple days. Make sure to return it before Sunday.)
Most people do not have a clue what music their parents would prefer and often regret not knowing when the time comes to plan a memorial service. Once you know the answer to this question you can find recordings online, or even better, ask if they have a particular soloist they would like to perform any of the pieces.
2. Do you have any favorite Bible verses or verses from your religious books, you would like included in your service?
If their eyesight is getting poor, you may want to read through any underlined passages in their Bible or spiritual documents and let them choose which to include in their service.
3. Do you have a favorite poem or reading you would like included in the service?
If they know they like a particular author, or particular book, buy it online or check it out from the library so they can take their time and decide what would be most meaningful.
4a. What are some of your favorite memories from your life time?
Plan to incorporate as many of these as possible into the eulogy. It's very difficult with fresh grief and the exhaustion that accompanies it, to write a eulogy, but the majority of a eulogy can be written well in advance of death, because it is a history of the person's life (most of which has happened already!)
4b. Can you think of any funny memories with family or friends?
Adding a little humor to a memorial service or celebration of life offers a much-needed break from the heaviness of the day. (You may want to think of your own funny memories of your parent, that would bring attendees a grin!)
5. What relatives and friends do you specifically want us to contact, that might not find out about your memorial service otherwise?
Get this information in your memorial-service-planning folder.
6. What would you tell your family and friends if you could leave them with an encouraging word?
One of the most meaningful and touching things I have ever seen done, was, before her death, a woman video-taped herself talking to everyone who would be at her funeral. No loved one was to view it until the funeral. Her message was incredibly precious to everyone in attendance and it was a piece of herself that her children and grandchildren will treasure forever.
7. Which are your favorite pictures of friends and family?
Have your parents put these into two piles: 1. friends 2. family
Now you are ready to put together a video for the memorial service or picture memorial boards (or both). I took my parents favorite photos, scanned them onto their computer, and made a slide presentation that plays every time they open the computer. They keep the computer on constantly because they love seeing the old pictures of their parents and siblings, as well as pictures of their friends and their homes through out the years.
Ask these seven questions of your parents before their health deteriorates. It will make the inevitable process of putting a memorial service, funeral, or celebration of life service together, infinitely easier when that difficult day arrives.
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