The Living Memorial: An Ingenious Celebration of Life

By: VGFS
Sunday, June 2, 2019

One day, we will all be called home. If you’ve been diagnosed with a terminal illness or are in hospice care, your own homegoing is no longer an abstract idea but an impending reality. As you and your loved ones prepare for what’s next, an option that is growing in popularity is holding a living memorial.

This celebration includes family, friends, members of your community and—most importantly—you. While a living memorial can’t replace a traditional homegoing, this ingenious celebration allows your friends, family, and community to honor your life, offer support, and say their goodbyes while you’re alive.

Whom should you invite to a living memorial? You can decide the guest list or your friends and family can take care of this task. Have as much or little control over the event as you desire. If you feel fatigued or there is someone you’d rather plan the event, just ask. Most any of your loved ones would consider it an honor.

Invite those who will be uplifting and excited to celebrate and reflect on your life with you. Family, friends, church family, and community members can all join in. Your minister, pallbearers and anyone who would participate in your homegoing can also be present.

What to expect at a living memorial. You can expect a uniquely personal experience as might at a repast. Anticipate singing, laughter, good food and, most likely, tears of both sadness and appreciation. You will have the privilege of feeling comforted by favorite hymns and Bible verses, smelling the beautiful flowers, and hearing the love-filled words that your friends and family have to share. Ask guests to bring a potluck dish, well-wishes, stories, and any feelings they’d like to share. It is also not uncommon for the guest of honor to give a speech and take part in some or all of the festivities. Attendees often leave with a special program as a keepsake from the event.

When to have a living memorial. Time is of the essence, particularly when a terminal illness is involved. You’ll want to schedule your living memorial so that the guests you want there can attend. Keep in mind your prognosis and level of endurance. The point of the event is for you to be able to take in the love and support. If heavy medication or mobility issues are in your future, you might want to plan the event earlier so that you can enjoy the celebration as much as possible. If you want to have a living memorial, don’t let your illness keep you from spending this time with your loved ones. This is as much a gift for them as it is for you. The memories made at your memorial will keep them close to you for the long run.

Where to hold a living memorial. Your celebration can be held somewhere grand or simple. Repast halls, banquet rooms, and restaurant party rooms are popular options. However, you don’t need to rent an elaborate space if it’s not in your budget. Living memorials can be held at the home of a friend, neighbor, relative or your home. If weather permits, you can also hold it outside in a public park or backyard. The location should be convenient for you and be able to hold as many guests as you expect to come. If space is an issue, you can also hold an open house where guests can come and go. However, keep in mind that an open house might be more taxing since the hours are long and the event is less organized. Consider your health and what will work best for you. Your loved ones can accommodate you.

Why should you hold a living memorial? The most compelling reason to hold a living memorial is that you,  the guest of honor, can witness the celebration of your own life! Prepare a speech or written legacy to share at the event. Unlike a birthday party, this affair is more of a retrospective of your entire life. It makes sense to be present for the celebration if you have the opportunity. Living memorials also provide special opportunities for your loved ones. Too often, we have regrets after someone we love is called home. We think about what we could and should have said while we had the chance. We think about hearing his or her voice one more time or receiving just one more hug. We may regret that our deceased loved one never got to see us reconcile with a relative. A living memorial can prevent the pain of regretting what was left unsaid or undone, and can even replace sadness with indelible fond memories.

While saying goodbye is never easy, a living memorial can help prepare you and your loved ones for your final journey home. If you have questions about holding a living memorial, funeral information, or need to discuss other end of life plans, please contact us. Our caring staff members would be honored to speak with you.

About Vaughn Greene Funeral Services: For more than 20 years, Vaughn Greene Funeral Services has been providing a ministry of care to Baltimore’s African American community. As a leading local, minority- and family-owned provider, we promise to provide our highest level of service and respect to families who entrust us to honor their loved one. For more information, please call us at 410.655.0015 or visit us online at https://vaughncgreene.com/.

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