Most of us have attended a funeral and, having listened to the eulogy, come away learning something we didn’t know about that person and the memories others have of them. Every relationship is individual – even siblings will have different memories of a parent – and, in grief, it can be comforting to hear these memories.
At some services – or afterwards at a reception – friends and family might be invited to step forward to say a few words about the person who has died and share a memory. If this happens at a service you attend then, don’t feel under any pressure. However, if you do feel you want to say something, then it might be good to plan a few words. But, don’t feel that it’s set in stone; you could find that what’s already been mentioned in the eulogy or something somebody else has said already reminds you of a memory you have.
If you are planning a funeral for a loved one and would like to include some time for memory sharing within the service, then here are some hints and tips. You could tell people beforehand that you’ll be ‘opening the floor’ for comments – which will give them time to reflect. Also, it’s best to ask a family member or friend if they’d be happy to go first (and give them advance warning that you’re going to do that); this will avoid an awkward silence at the start, while also setting the tone.
If you do decide to do this, it will need managing – which could be handled by the celebrant or a member of the family. When introducing the section, it’s best to politely ask people to keep it fairly brief. There should also be a time limit for this part of the service and somebody, again probably the celebrant, should be at hand to bring this section to a close and thank everyone for being open enough to take part. It might be good to ask somebody to make a note of who said a few words – as the you might want to thank them afterwards.
In addition – or instead of this – it is becoming increasingly popular to have a book at the get-together afterwards where people can write their memories. This is very much like a book which you might sign at a wedding with your hopes for the couple. Here at Tester & Jones, we can help you to source a book like this and it could, for example, match the order of service in design.
We’ve talked before about what to write in a sympathy card and, again, this could be an opportunity to share a memory. In a blog in the New York Times - Bruce Feiler says that, rather falling back on cliched phrases, sharing a positive memory is often a good thing to do.
He explained that one gentleman told him the condolence notes that moved him most were from strangers who shared a recollection of his father. “That was important for me because I realised his place in the world,” he said. “At the time, you’re only thinking of your own relation to the loved one. You realise this person had impact beyond you and that was comforting.”
Once a funeral has taken place, we’d always encourage you to keep sharing memories. If you meet somebody who’s been bereaved, then mention that person. It won’t make them feel any worse – but could bring comfort. For example, the sun might be shining and you might simply say something like ‘this weather reminds me of your Dad out in the garden cutting the lawn’.