Making Summer Count: Creating Summer Memories with Your Family

Summer memories Summer’s here, and kids will be out of school for several weeks. It’s easy to let these leisure months pass in a blur, but why not spend them creating summer memories that will last a lifetime with your family instead? It doesn’t have to take a lot of money to make a memorable summer—just start by having “the Talk of a Lifetime” and share some of your most memorable summer vacations with each other. You will soon learn what matters most to one another.

Ideas for a Memorable Summer

As you gear up to create the best summer your family has ever had, don’t fall into the slump of, “So, what do you want to do?” Those words will have your kids’ noses buried in their iPads and video games faster than you can blink. Instead, take charge of your summer and make active and fun plans you and your children can get excited about. You can share some of your favorite summer memories by having the Talk of a Lifetime. By learning more about your loved ones, you’ll undoubtedly come up with some new and fun ways to recreate your most meaningful and memorable summer activities with your kids. Below is a checklist of ideas to get you started:
  • Photo Ops: Go old school and purchase a disposable camera for each member of your family and then head out to a picturesque spot, like a local botanical garden, park, or beach. Let your family members explore and snap photos of the interesting and beautiful things they find. Your kids will experience the adventure of discovery and the exciting anticipation of waiting for their pictures to be developed. After you pick up the photos, sit down as a family and give each person an opportunity to show off their shutterbug efforts, then let everybody help put the photos into a family album or scrapbook. Ask them what their favorite picture was and why. These are great opportunities to record these precious experiences in the scrapbooks along with the photos, and talk about what matters most to you and your loved ones. You’ll be surprised at how much you can learn during these types of activities.
  • Roll of the Dice: Family road trips before the invention of GPS were always an adventure. Take some time to share some of your most memorable road trips with your family. You can recreate some of that adventure with your kids with this fun activity. Pile into the family vehicle for a fun trip into the unknown. Take one die (or let one of your creative kids make paper origami dice—trust us, almost every kid knows how). A larger die, like the kind that hangs from a rearview mirror, will make the process easier, but small dice can be used, as well. On each side of the die, tape a direction: Left, Right, Legal U-Turn, Straight. Some directions can be used twice to cover each side of the die. Let a family member roll the die to get you started on your journey; whatever direction it lands on, that’s where you’re headed. Each time you come to a stop sign, stoplight, or dead end, let a family member roll the die to determine which way to go next. The journey ends when you reach an interesting location you’d like to explore—or the driver can make an executive decision after a while and conclude the adventure at a fun spot like an ice cream parlor to share your experiences and relive old memories as well.
  • Home Camping: This is a tried-and-true summer family activity that is always fun. Plan a family campout in your backyard. Talk about some of your favorite camping experiences from your childhood. Make s’mores, share songs that you learned as a kid, tell spooky stories that you may have heard when you were a scout, teach your kids games you played in your old neighborhood, and just bond. These are great opportunities to pass down family stories and traditions.
  • Night Games: Remember how much fun it was to play night games with the kids in your neighborhood when you were a child? The majority of kids today can conquer the latest Internet games but have no idea what you’re talking about when you mention “Kick the Can” or flashlight tag. Share those rich and wonderful experiences with your children. Organize a family night-game session and introduce your kids to the fun children used to have before the Internet and television took over their worlds. You can also invite some neighbor families to join in the fun.
  • Remember Those Who Have Died: During your summer bonding, make time to “Have the Talk of a Lifetime” with your family members. Visit the cemetery as a family and decorate the graves of your departed loved ones. Pull out old family photos and tell your kids stories about deceased relatives they may not remember or didn’t know well. Start a family history project and help your kids sketch out a family tree. Take the opportunity to teach your children the importance of honoring the memories of your loved ones and exploring where they came from.

Memories to Last a Lifetime

For more information about having the Talk of a Lifetime, visit or contact us today.

Have the Talk of a Lifetime


By Kathleen M. Berry, CFSP

Kathleen M. Berry & Associates International Memorialization Supply Association

A few months back, I was invited back to my alma mater to listen to a very dear man, mentor and teacher give his thoughts and share words of wisdom one more time to the crowd in attendance. He was traveling to the Order’s retirement community and wanted to leave us with some parting wisdom.  As he began, he talked about his life on campus, the years of teaching and the many lives that had touched him over the years. He took the time to introduce his family to all and his final thoughts centered on forgiveness. He imparted good words to be remembered…as he always did in class.  After he was done, the microphone was passed amongst the crowd.  Some told stories of antics from the past; many gave open thanks to him for making a difference in their lives; everyone talked about his stick figures on the chalk board; a number spoke to how he married them and baptized their children, but, truly, we were all there to thank him and let him know how much he was loved!   I visited with him afterwards and he said to me that his body does not have the energy it used to…the mind is good, the body, not so much! I wished him well, told him that I loved him and squeezed his hand…he smiled in that familiar way.  He was giving his final formal session on campus. Throughout the evening there were tears, laughter and such sharing…and before I knew it…we were having “the Talk!”  It was with my school community, a man we loved and it was so very awesome! Remember, next time you are in a room, having a grand time sharing memories, before you know it…you too, will be having “the Talk!”

The Evolution of Memorializing Deceased Loved Ones

Woman holding picture frame

From simple to very elaborate, individuals and their families have more options than ever for memorializing their loved ones at the end of life in a personal and meaningful way.

The Legacy of Memorialization

Since the dawn of time, human beings have been participating in rituals, services, and other activities to honor and remember loved ones who have died.

These traditions of memorialization vary from culture to culture and have evolved over time. Ancient Egyptians engaged in mummification to sanctify their dead and help departed souls reach the next life. Other ancient peoples created carvings and artwork in honor of the dead and engaged in a variety of burial rituals.

Today, people are remembered in numerous ways, from public memorials and candlelight vigils to tributes paid virtually via social media after they die.

The practice of hosting funerals has also evolved to include varied creative expressions of love and remembrance.

Creative Memorials

Some common practices that are finding their way increasingly into modern funeral proceedings allow mourners to use their creativity as they remember a loved one.

Often, families display photos and other memorabilia at funerals to pay tribute to the life of the departed, and others go further in putting together items like photo wreaths, video montages, and other memorialization creations.

Many families request that well-wishers donate to a favorite charity in lieu of flowers, while others write messages of love to their departed loved one and send them into the sky inside helium balloons or Chinese lanterns. Still others plant flowers and trees in honor of the deceased. Many other innovative practices of memorialization are becoming the norm when a loved one passes away.

Having ‘The Talk of a Lifetime’

The desire for simplicity with regards to your own final arrangements is very common. Recognizing your loved ones’ fundamental need to remember, honor and celebrate your life and achievements is the key to understanding why having the Talk of a Lifetime is extremely important.

Our loved ones need to understand about all of our lives and especially how we want to be remembered. Ultimately, their final tribute to us allows them to begin their grief journey. In a way, having the Talk of a Lifetime is the most unselfish gift we can give to those we love.

Memorialization fills a vital role for those mourning the loss of a loved one and encompasses all aspects of honoring a life that has been lived. Memorialization services, visitation, placement in a cemetery, creating a memorial marker or monument, and any other means of paying tribute to our loved ones are all considered to be part of the process of memorialization and are vitally important. By providing surviving family members and friends a caring, supportive environment in which to share thoughts and feelings about the death, memorials are the first step in the healing process.

For more information about how you can “Have the Talk of a Lifetime,” contact us today.

Creating a Memory Book

Memory Book Sharing stories with those who matter most isn’t just important today; it will be especially significant when it’s time to commemorate a life. Have the Talk of a Lifetime encourages families to have conversations about life and what matters most. These discussions can help families make important decisions about how they wish to remember and honor the lives of their loved ones. Creating a memory book is a great way to share stories about meaningful pictures and tokens. It makes for a wonderful family activity with all of your loved ones, and it’s an easy way to start the Talk of a Lifetime.

Memory Book Steps

We have all made a difference in the lives of our family and friends. Photos and keepsakes remind us of unforgettable and heartfelt moments, which is why creating a memory book is a wonderful way to share your memories. Here are some steps to take when creating your memory book:

Choose a theme

Your book can flow smoothly if you create a themed structure. Some families decide to opt for a storyteller perspective, making the book from a certain person’s point of view. Start by sharing stories for the photos and keepsakes you want to include, journaling their shared stories as you go. You can even make separate books to commemorate holidays, family weddings or other special occasions.

Collect Supplies

As you gather the images and tokens that fit your theme, it’s important to have supplies. We recommend having a sturdy photo album book because it’s a keepsake you’ll want to make last and pass down to other generations. Make sure the paper you choose for the memory book is buffered, acid-free, and lignin-free to protect the images. There is plenty of paper made specifically for photo albums that can be found at most craft stores. You can also find special acid-free colored pens to mark the dates and names for each photo. As you choose the photos, be sure to talk about and record in writing, the emotions that you remember so your loved ones can relive your memories, and know what was important to you.


Sorting your pictures by dates and events will help ensure that images go in chronological order. The more concisely you organize and sort, the easier it will be to focus on the memories and create a flowing story.

Have the Talk of a Lifetime

Creating memory books is a rich and meaningful way to gather the family. It’s a great way to help you Have the Talk of a Lifetime. You can talk about everything. As you put your book together you can share the big events and small victories. You can also use this time to Have the Talk about how you want to be remembered. It can make the difference of a lifetime. Talk to your loved ones during a memory book day to help everyone prepare for the future and make the most out of upcoming family events. Contact us for more information about Have the Talk of a Lifetime.

The Gift of Gab: The Gift of a Lifetime

If it wasn't for family it wouldn't be quoteIf it wasn’t for family, it wouldn’t be.” My father’s toast sums up what’s most important to him. The adopted oldest son of a proud Irish family, my grandparents loved their young Billy to bits, and ensured that he understood a family’s love and heritage runs deeper than blood. As a boy he quickly identified with all things Irish, particularly “the gift of gab,” which is our family’s version of the Talk of a Lifetime. Within these stories of love and heritage, he learned some of the circumstances surrounding his adoption; however, he never had the urge to seek out his birth family because, as he says, “my soul is just fine.” My dad’s head is filled with a troubadour’s songbook, his heart carries a rebel’s pride, and his soul is nourished by laughter and story. Part W.B. Yates and part Michael Collins, he uses the gift of gab to find common ground, to entertain, and to teach. His stories talk about what matters most. My dad’s most requested stories are those that end with everyone around him laughing through tears; the best have become tall tales. (I was there the day he stormed Blarney Castle. I don’t remember being chased by a feuding clan, but I won’t tell him that.) Sometimes my dad’s talks of a lifetime mean convincing his grandchildren that he is one-quarter leprechaun. But after his parents died he better understood that sometimes the talks mean sharing medical history and other vital information. This was the compelling factor in his decision to seek his birth family. He recalled the adoption information he learned from his parents and began the laborious task of petitioning the state. Apart from learning that both his birth parents were deceased, and that he was baptized on St. Patrick’s Day, he received very little information regarding the closed adoption. But our state rescinded a law earlier this year making closed adoption information available to children whose birth parents are deceased; learning about his birth family was as easy as a phone call. My dad’s record was opened and we learned that he wasn’t just the 100% Irish with which he’d identified his entire life…he was in fact born to Irish parents, and had SEVEN younger biological siblings, thus making him, as my brother Timmy says, 200% Irish! My dad also learned that he had given his youngest son Timmy his own birth name. This initial excitement segued into Do I contact them? What if they don’t know about me? What if they do know about me? How will my brother and extended family react? Golly, this is really a big can of worms. Our family discussed the impact of contacting my dad’s birth family and recognized that this was undoubtedly the most significant talk of a lifetime we’d ever had. My dad made the delicate-but-informed decision to reach out to his birth siblings. After a bit of soul-searching (and several drafts), he sent a registered letter to the family introducing himself and our family. He addressed the letter’s magnitude and said that he was open to meeting them in person if it was something they also wanted. He assured them that his “soul was just fine.” The next afternoon, my dad picked up the phone. “Hi Bill,” the caller said. “I’m your younger brother, Mike. It’s nice to meet you. We’ve been waiting for you, and we love you to pieces.” The brothers talked for several happy hours. It was the phone call of a lifetime. This late-afternoon conversation was proof that my dad’s biological parents also believed in the significance of talks of a lifetime. They had made the difficult decision to share with their seven children that “a little Timmy” was out in the world, and should he ever come looking, he should know that he was “loved to pieces,” which was his birth mother’s favorite saying. My mom asked the natural question, “Did you find out why you were given up for adoption?” to which my dad replied, “You know…we didn’t get that far. We couldn’t stop laughing! We just kept gabbing!” After a flurry of Facebook friend requests, text messages, phone calls and photo sharing among all of us, my parents met the family in person the following weekend (St. Patrick’s Day weekend, naturally). The gathering was filled with somehow-familiar hugs, thoughtful toasts, and non-stop gabbing. My dad is thrilled to have a new audience to hear his tales. We’ve all since met in person and are happily navigating the new relationships with siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins. There’s a comfortable joy that surrounds us when we’re all together, and we can’t seem to tell the remarkably similar stories fast enough. They’re all steeped in love and heritage, but feature different sets of characters…the beginning of a new chapter of talks of a lifetime. He may have said his soul is just fine, but in the same way a parent’s heart grows bigger with the birth of each new child, I can see my dad’s nourished soul swell with each story told in his same jovial style. I also see his troubadour’s tears brim with a wistful gratitude as he listens to his siblings, whose cobalt eyes twinkle just like his own. He’s wistful for a little Timmy who would have been another puppy on the pile. And he’s grateful for the couple who chose little Billy as their son. But most of all my dad is profoundly thankful to two sets of parents whose talks of a lifetime stemmed from loving the same little leprechaun to bits and pieces. Because “if it wasn’t for family, it wouldn’t be.” Kelly Manion Director of Communication Funeral Service Foundation

Wedding Remembrance Ideas

Pine cone on dinner tablePlanning for a wedding is a great time to Have the Talk of a Lifetime with your loved ones to share memories and pay tribute to family members who are no longer with you. Honoring a loved one at a wedding starts with having the Talk of a Lifetime. You may gain the greatest insight about wedding remembrance ideas from an important talk with family and loved ones. Let your wedding day be special for new beginnings and cherishing fond memories and traditions of loved ones who have gone before you. We have a few ideas of how to honor and memorialize a loved one in a special way without bringing the tone down for your special day.

Ideas to Consider

Wedding remembrance ideas are meant to add another positive light to your wedding day. Consider these DIY ideas for the big day:
  • Save a seat for loved ones by placing flowers on them. You can add more personal touches by using their favorite accessory, instrument, or clothing.
  • Release a balloon at the end of the ceremony for your loved one or release butterflies; ask attendants for a moment of silence.
  • Did your loved one have a favorite food or drink like chocolate or or wine? Set up a “bar” with wines, cheese, chocolates, etc. You can also frame a picture of your loved one and leave a note mentioning their recommendations for the bar.
  • Before the start of the reception, have a toast. Mention a few short and sweet words.
  • Have a photo wall at the reception or ceremony with frames of your loved one. If they have wedding photos, then that is a great touch to commemorate the day.
  • Is there a special recipe that started with your loved one? Recreate it and have your guests try it. You can write a message about the recipe’s story (if there is one) to create a heartfelt touch.

Start with Have Talk of a Lifetime

We highly recommend Have the Talk of a Lifetime for families. Starting with the Talk of a Lifetime when creating wedding remembrance ideas can help you make a meaningful plan. If you need more information about Have the Talk of a Lifetime, contact us today.

The Importance of Storytelling

My Life Story

By Mike Mims

Cherokee Casket Company

Storytelling has been around since the beginning of time. Today books and the internet are full of stories of individuals sharing their life story. From a President’s autobiography to an individual’s blog or Facebook page, there are stories being told every day. Young and old have a story to tell. Sharing a picture or a quote starts telling a story, embracing the emotions of a moment in time. As a minister, I love to hear and tell stories. Throughout my ministry, I have performed many ceremonies. Most ceremonies center on special occasions surrounding someone’s life, for example: birth, graduation, wedding, baptism, communion, retirement and death.  In preparation for a ceremony I always want to hear the individual’s story (journey) of arriving at this milestone of their life. I sit down with an individual and say “Tell me your story please.” This will usually open the door of storytelling that leads me through a journey that can cover a wide array of emotions. But in the end, I am able to receive insight into what was important to that individual. When it came to planning the funeral or memorial ceremony, however, I may not have had that opportunity before the person died to hear their story. Many times this ceremony is the most perplexing in preparing and performing. To learn an individual’s story I turn to family and friends. I ask the usual questions of who, what, when, how and where – trying to piece together the life story. In response many times I hear “I do not know” followed by “I wish I had known”. One’s life story can only be best told by the one the story is about. You do not have to be a great storyteller. It all starts with asking a question, showing a picture or sharing a comment. Have the Talk of a Lifetime® is a great place to begin telling your story as only you can tell. How would you want to be remembered? Start sharing your story with those who matter most.  

It’s Bigger Than You

Beach Picture

By Mark T. Higgins

Hall-Wynne Funeral Service & Crematory, Durham, NC

Have the Talk of a Lifetime® promotes fostering conversations within families in advance on the generally taboo subject of death. The aim, however, is to underscore life by eliciting individual wishes of how one wants to be remembered through discussion with those who matter most. It is a mining process of reviewing one’s chronological highlights, treasured occasions, accomplishments, and values, solidified and lived out along the way, combined to create an enduring legacy for surviving family and friends. As a funeral director for many years, I’ve witnessed the changes and trends in memorial practices. Have the Talk of a Lifetime is a timely endeavor to help the public take seriously the impact various choices around end-of-life will have for better or worse. The program encourages a deeper dive with its emphasis on exploring ways memorial rituals facilitate our human need for honor and remembrance. In our death-averse culture I hear it frequently: “No fanfare for me, just scatter my ashes at the beach and raise a glass of champagne.” And, in fact this is what often happens as the newly bereaved ardently (and often mistakenly) cling to doing “exactly what Henry wanted.” When people decide to have “The Talk” with family members or other pertinent ones, it’s essential to bear in mind that ultimately, your death or mine will affect others on an emotional level. When death comes, we are out of the picture, and it is up to the ones in charge to hopefully balance some of what you or I expressed as important, and the needs of the living party to take meaningful leave of you and me. The Talk of a Lifetime therefore is not just about you! When making such decisions, we often act selfishly by neglecting the needs of family members – adults and children, friends, colleagues and the wider community/ies of which we have been a part. We cannot “feel the feelings” of grief in advance, and while planning ahead may relieve loved ones from the stress of making decisions under pressure, room must be allowed for survivors to take some ownership around choices when the time comes for their inner wellbeing. This important “Talk of a Lifetime” conversation should not take place in a vacuum. Funeral service professionals deal in loss, grief and ceremony day in and out. We navigate through the most complex family dynamics, and we are at our best when open in heart and mind with listening ears. We bring vast experience, valuable resources and a range of choices appealing to our diverse communities. The wisest step you can take is to invite your funeral director into this conversation. He or she can provide a useful framework and a comprehensive approach to moving what may begin as casual discussion to a pro-active plan that considers the relevance of all those who have a stake in conveying your story and mine, and sending what remains of us – whether to ground or fire – in a ritualized fashion that enables those we love to bear witness to who we were, what we meant and how our influence may endure.

The Gift of Saying Goodbye

Gift of saying goodbye

By Donald Calhoun

Have you ever had the opportunity to be with someone you care for during their final moments of life? Most people don’t realize the gift this time together can be for both the participant and the observer. This past year, my mother-in-law Ann ended a 10 year battle with Alzheimer’s, as she passed away in front of loving children and her husband at the nursing home. Ann was a part of a new concept in caring for the dying called “hospice.” It included an interdisciplinary team of doctors, nurses, social workers and chaplains who helped care for the whole person who was dying and supported the entire family during the death and mourning process. I was able to stand shoulder to shoulder with my wife Katie, her father Richard and her siblings. The experience was transcendent. Heaven was in full glorious bloom amidst the depths of epic tragedy, a loss of a glorious and beautiful mother, friend and individual. A dash of Heaven was revealed at the end of Ann’s earthly journey. When someone we love is dying it can be hard to know what to do, what to say or how to help? How do we go about having the Talk of a Lifetime? I ran across a book called “The Four Things That Matter Most” by Ira Byock, M.D.A that provides a simple guide to use during these difficult situations:
Part 1 – The Four Things ‘Please forgive me’, ‘I forgive you’, ‘Thank you’ and ‘I love you’ are four simple phrases with enormous power, which are important to say to people we care about, even if we might think that they are already implicitly understood. We can often hang on to grudges unconsciously, creating distance and eroding joy in our relationships, without realizing what we are missing as a result. These four things are what matters most to people who are dying, because when we face death, suddenly our relationships assume paramount importance. We want to express love and appreciation, and to say goodbye. We are sustained by the knowledge that we are loved and appreciated in return. When people die suddenly, we may regret having left some of these things unsaid, so rather than leave it until it may be too late, it is worth saying them now. If we make sure to tell our loved ones what they mean to us, we can achieve a feeling of completeness such that we could die today without regrets, having left nothing unsaid or undone. Any relationship can be fixed and transformed permanently – it is never too late. When facing death, barriers can suddenly melt away, and hard people become soft and vulnerable, warm and trusting. The last moments before death can completely reframe our memories of a person. Part 2 – Forgiveness Nobody’s life is perfect, and there will always be regrettable memories, which we wish we’d handled differently at the time. We are all fallible human beings, but all nonetheless worthy of love and acceptance, just the way we are. We must come to terms with our mistakes, and accept ourselves, warts and all, rather than pretending to be something else, because if we don’t feel worthy of love and acceptance in ourselves, we will reject them when they are offered to us by others. We should aim to treat ourselves and others with patience and understanding, love and acceptance, and forgiveness. Forgiveness is not the same as exoneration: forgiveness accepts the past for what it was, without necessarily excusing it. If we do not address issues with someone we’re close to, they can continue to haunt us even after the other person has died, and though it is possible to achieve resolution after the event, it is much easier and more powerful to do so while they are still alive. People hurt each other out of insecurity and defensiveness, and if we fight fire with fire, we just perpetuate the cycle, whereas if we instead choose to forgive, we can generate healing on all sides. Even if others fail to respond in kind, we will be able to feel good about ourselves, and rid ourselves of any lingering guilt regarding our part of the story. Treating people with love and compassion is cathartic for both sides, and when our turn comes to be the one needing to be cared for, it serves everyone’s best interests if we can switch roles and allow others to take care of us. Part 3 – Thank You Everyone benefits when we express and accept appreciation without restraint. We shouldn’t do good deeds solely to receive thanks, but there is no need to reject appreciation simply to prove the point. If we cannot accept thanks, we will struggle to express them too. Life is short, and if we remember to really appreciate it instead of taking it for granted, we can infuse every moment with joy. Defenses push people away, and make them become defensive too. It only takes one side to change the dynamics of a relationship, and it is never too late to do so. Change is a part of life, and family dynamics are especially subject to it, with children requiring increased independence as they grow up, and less control and interference from their parents. Although we all die in the end, we all retain the capability for significant change and growth until that very last day. Part 4 – I Love You There are many ways to communicate love, and if events of the past make saying the actual words too difficult in certain circumstances, then the door can be opened by way of a letter or recorded message, or a tender touch. Life is precious, and we should try to live it as fully as possible, in love and gratitude. Remembering that life is temporary can free us from false pretenses and pointless strife in our lives, and open up space for intense joy instead. Life goes on when our loved ones die, and the best remedy for grief is to embrace life. Part 5 – Goodbye A well-said farewell to a loved one, whether we are the one leaving or one left behind, can turn the sadness of parting into an epiphany of love and appreciation. The need to say goodbye can give us the strength to undertake arduous journeys or even delay death until it has been satisfied. Saying farewell is much easier if we have made the Four Things part of our relationships, and our loving goodbyes can even outlast us if we leave messages to be opened by our loved ones at specific events in their future after we are gone.
If we fully understand and accept the fact, that our time could be up today, tomorrow, next week, or thirty years from now, we have it within our capacity to understand that this moment is a blessing, a gift and a present. We need to try to live in the present, not the future, nor the past, to manifest the real gift of life. We can only control our perceptions and actions in the moment. Forest Gump said: “Life is like a box of chocolates… you never know what you’re gonna get.” Unfortunately, for most of us, it takes a good whack on the side of the head, or a major traumatic event to evoke change, or an understanding of this concept. Let’s join the adventuresome folks in the world not to be bound by the shackles of conformity, familiarity, safety and blazing mediocrity. We can embrace change, fears and anxiety. Our challenges and tragedies should be accepted and received as gifts, instruments of change, and something that we can learn from. Change and death produce growing levels of complexity, understanding, but in the end can be a beautiful, glorious, and peaceful blessing. Don’t wait. Have the Talk of a Lifetime with your loved ones today.

Remember Your Loved Ones, Not Their Hobbies


By Mark Allen

Executive Director and CEO, International Order of the Golden Rule

A carpenter named George lived in my hometown for many years. George possessed carpentry skills that were widely regarded as nothing short of amazing. When he passed away, many people who attended his visitation asked his family why none of the memorabilia on display depicted his talent for building. It would have been easy to display his worn saw horses, carefully-maintained tools and old coveralls as a tribute to the life he lived. His widow replied, “George wanted to be remembered for something other than his sanding technique and his ability to install electrical wiring in tight spaces.” Her comment caught me off guard at the time, but now I understand that even though he excelled at building things, carpentry did not represent his essence as a human being. At his visitation and funeral, his family chose to display symbols of his faith in God, his love for his family and his devotion to nature. They invited only those George cared about to participate in his funeral service. After the service, they gathered at a nearby nature preserve to share stories of how George impacted their lives. Imagine what a different celebration his family might have created had they not known what George truly valued in his life. If we don’t know how loved ones want to be remembered, we can mistakenly celebrate their hobbies, vocations or casual interests rather than the core values of their lives. If we could observe our own funerals, I wonder how many of us would be surprised at the rituals and objects our loved ones would choose to represent our lives because we didn’t take time to communicate what’s most meaningful to us. My friends know I have a passion for vintage automobiles, but that doesn’t mean I want a car-themed funeral. I’d prefer to have people bring dogs from an animal shelter to my funeral. Guests will have furry companions to make them smile and a few animals might find new homes. Talking about how we want to be remembered may feel intrusive to some people. We don’t want to burden those we love with details about our funeral preferences. But imagine the additional burden we place on loved ones when we fail to provide them with information that will streamline the funeral planning process and lead to ceremonies that help family and friends cope with their loss. Making your wishes known will make others’ lives easier and alleviate stress during their time of grief. That’s a nice way to be remembered.