My MIL passed away in October. We decided to delay a service due to COVID. She was cremated. We are planning a Celebration of Life ceremony in June - two states away in her hometown where most of our family and her old friends are.

We have decided to have it outside at a local park with a beautiful setting overlooking the river and her hometown.

I've never attended a Celebration Of Life, only traditional funeral services. So I'm not sure what all is expected...

We plan on having a short traditional service, a butterfly release, photos of her life for guests to view, a buffet catered for guests to eat and enjoy themselves.

Any other ideas or recommendations you've seen at a celebration of life ceremony that you liked?

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What you have planned sounds perfect. I don't think anything is expected, really, as everyone's idea of a celebration of life is different. When my dad passed, I had a celebration in his honor at the AL he lived in. Since he was of Italian descent, I played Italian music, had a few different types of Italian liqueurs available, Italian cookies and pastries, and I made a memory board of his life in photos that I had displayed. It turned out very well and everyone had an enjoyable time. The craziest thing was that a large flower arrangement arrived during the celebration........with a card signed by MY DECEASED FATHER! I about passed out on the spot. After a lot of investigation, it turned out to be from my uncle, dad's brother, who thought it would be 'touching' to have flowers sent by my father to his own memorial celebration. My mother looked like she'd seen a ghost!
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notgoodenough Apr 2021
Lea - wow! Just wow! I don't know how I would feel about that...I honestly don't know if I would be touched, PO'd, insulted, offended, comforted...I really don't know how I would have handled that!! I can sure see where that might have made you passed out!!
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I think you've planned a very nice service. The key is to make it comfortable for people.

The best services I've been to are ones with assigned speakers. The worst are the "If anyone has something they'd like to say, come on up," because either

1) no one comes up (no one is comfortable with public speaking, or worse, didn't know the person well enough to feel like it's their place to speak)

2) People come up and can't stop talking (too many inside anecdotes no one can relate to -- "And then there was that time...ha ha, ho ho." No no.)

3) Too many people come up and there's seemingly no end in sight. ("Ed's story about when Eunice danced on the table reminded me of a time when we all got drunk one night, and...")

I have been to all three of these services. They're disorganized and excruciating to sit through. Awkward silences as no one speaks are as painful as when too many speak.

Select two, maybe three speakers at the most, and give each one 2-3 minutes to speak. No one will follow that, but it gives them an idea of how long they have. That amount of time works out to about two double-spaced typed pages.

Have one speak about the person's family life (they get more time if they want), one speaks about their career, if applicable, and one speaks about their community involvement, hobbies, or friendships. Since it'll be in Mom's hometown, perhaps one of her friends from the early days could speak about their growing up days, but ONLY if they're prepared, not speaking off the cuff.

Don't pressure someone to speak if they can't do public speaking comfortably. (Hand raised here.) I am terrible at public speaking, get teary, quavery, and become an unholy mess. It's pure nerves, not grief -- I just can't do it.

I had to give a eulogy at my grandmother's funeral, and I'm sure it was excruciating to watch as I stammered, and stuttered my way through it. I told my dad when he was dying that I knew he knew I loved him, but I wouldn't speak at his service. I wrote the eulogy, and my brother delivered it. Dad had seen the eulogy at my grandmother's funeral, so he was good with that.

Just be sure folks feel comfortable, have plenty of seating, and have a reason to stay and reminisce together, and you'll have a nice event.
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Your plans sound lovely, I don't think you need anything more. 🤗
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One of the most meaningful parts of a Celebration of Life service is the sharing of memories about the deceased. Usually, the more spontaneous this is, the better. It helps to ask those who knew her at a previous stages in her life to share something they remember.

You might ask them, a bit before the service so they have time to think, "What was she like as a young person, a neighbor, a sister, a co-worker ... whatever you know might generate some good memories on the part of those who knew her. Don't give them so much time ahead that they think they must "prepare" some remarks or give a "speech". You want them to be brief and as spontaneous as possible. When they have shared their memories, ask others who are present if they remember anything they would like to share.
Often this part of the service is quite healing. There may be some tears. Usually there is laughter. This brings people together in their shared experiences, memories and expressions of love for the departed.
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I'm with cwillie, what you have already planned sounds wonderful. I think that you're overthinking this. A celebration of life should be just that, a celebration with family and friends to remember and honor the loved one who has died. It should be a happy time for all who attend.
The only other thing that I have seen, is everyone having a helium balloon that they've written a special message on to the departed one, and then everyone lets go of them at the same time, but since you're already doing a butterfly release, that might be overkill.
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DiamondAngel14 Apr 2021
No balloons....not good for animals in the environment
Probably the best thing the minister who did my dad’s outdoor, simple funeral did was ask if anyone there would like to share a memory. The minister told me he planned to do this and knew how to rein it in if someone got too long. It turned out really special to hear different friends and family share their thoughts and stories. I’d definitely recommend this
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I love your ideas. I’m planning a similar gathering for my LO who died in November. I don’t think we’ll have a traditional service, but the other things you lists sound like what I’d like to do, My LO was a big music fan, so we will play her favorite music. I’ll have a table set up with her favorite collectibles and things she was proud of like her Baptismal certificate, Bible, photos, etc. I’m planning on having a small water feature, since we will not be near water. I’m planning on using the patio and backyard and using a couple of floral arrangements. I’ll serve food and a couple of beverages. I’m thinking of having this as a brunch and starting at 11:00 a.m.
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All sound wonderful. Include activities that you and the family find helpful: music, prayer, speaker, open time for others to share their remembrances... If a specific faith traditions are important to you or your family, include those. The goals are: #1 - to remember your the life of your MIL and not her death, and #2 - to help friends and family find peace with her departure.
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I think that you have a great plan in place.

The only addition I can think of is music that is a reflection of her.

I don’t know if you are familiar of New Orleans and our culture. Music is a huge part of who we are.

This won’t apply in your situation and the majority of people here don’t have jazz funerals here.

Most have traditional services and burials. Still, we do have plenty of jazz funerals. (Not now with Covid)

I absolutely adore the spirit of our jazz funerals. There is usually a church service, then there is literally marching in the streets starting off with very somber music to signify grief.

Towards the end of the route, the music picks up and there is upbeat dancing and singing!

It’s really beautiful. It’s acceptance that the deceased person is happy and at peace with no more pain and suffering.

So many people come out for the jazz funerals. They are held for the everyday Joe, to the well known musician, to our famous chefs.

It truly ends up being a big party or ‘celebration of life’ in our streets.

If anyone wants to see it, look at a YouTube of Allen Toussaint funeral procession. He was a well loved local musician.
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NeedHelpWithMom Apr 2021
Or if you are a football fan, you could check out Tom Benson Second Line on YouTube.

He owned the New Orleans Saints football team. His Mass was at St. Louis Cathedral. Then a second line throughout the streets.
May I suggest that you draw up a plan. For example:

Opening or gathering music or hymn. (soloist?) Some use a bagpiper.
Call to come together
Understanding that nothing lasts forever
Prayer of Joy/Sorrow
Eulogy (recap of person's life and impact on friends and family)
Remembrances of friends and family
Music or hymn
Psalm 23 (If appropriate)
Closing prayer and butterfly release
Closing music (postlude)and departure

Hope this helps.
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