Rather than focus on the end for the terminal ill, celebrations of life are becoming more popular in the U.S., according to Next Avenue in “’Living Memorials’ Allow Tributes Before Loved Ones Die.”
An example of this kind of event: a woman diagnosed with ovarian cancer nine years ago chose to create a celebration of her life now that her health has taken a turn for the worse. More than a hundred of her friends came from around the country to share anecdotes and remembrances while she was still alive to see them. A friend planned the entire event, so that a room filled with people who loved their friend were able to celebrate her, while she was still living.
These “living funerals” have become more popular lately. This may be a result of the baby boomers once again reinventing their own way to mark a stage of life. A survey by the National Funeral Directors Association found that more than half of 1,000 people polled, said they had attended a non-traditional gathering during the past year.
More people are looking for a shared experience before death. This has resulted in the creation of a new event that blends commemoration and celebration. Some have other agendas, wanting to give their loved ones their worldly goods with warm hands, or letting loved ones honor them with a song, video or another gesture with deep meaning.
This kind of farewell ceremony may be new to our times. However, there are many cultures that have similar rituals. In the 1990s, the Japanese began holding similar rites, called “seizenso.”
Timing is a key factor. If the event is not planned to take place before the person is able to enjoy it, there is no do-over. The event needs to take place while the person is still mobile, cognizant and able to recognize loved ones and enjoy their company.
For those who time it right, a life celebration can bring solace in the face of fear, joy and closure for a life well-lived.
One of the best-known living funerals to date was held for Morrie Schwartz, documented in the film and book “Tuesdays with Morrie.”
The personalized nature of living funerals, where there are no rules, can be held in a formal setting, like a church, synagogue or mosque, or outdoors, if the person was connected to the natural world.
For those who are considering holding a life celebration, discuss wishes with loved ones, in much the same way that an estate plan needs to be done, in advance. Planning for an estate plan requires the help of an estate planning attorney and the creation of documents that express the individuals wishes but the celebration of life is generally created by family and friends.
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Reference: Next Avenue (March 25, 2019) “’Living Memorials’ Allow Tributes Before Loved Ones Die”