Ideas to ConsiderWedding 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 LifetimeWe 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.
By Mike Mims
Cherokee Casket CompanyStorytelling 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.
By Mark T. Higgins
Hall-Wynne Funeral Service & Crematory, Durham, NCHave 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.
By Donald CalhounHave 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.
By Mark Allen
Executive Director and CEO, International Order of the Golden RuleA 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.
Wayne Stellmach Director of Marketing Wilbert Funeral Services, Inc. IMSA Board MemberSo here I am in the funeral service industry and still haven’t had The Talk of a Lifetime with my 85-year-old dad – or with my own children. It’s certainly not because I avoid thinking about or talking about death, like many families do. It’s not because I am unaware or in denial that death can come unexpectedly. I am reminded daily of the capriciousness of death and knowing that, I am anxious to have The Talk. So why haven’t I? Because of daily life. Work. Family events. Commitments. Sure, even some fun. Sound familiar? Of course it does…those of you who serve families directly hear it all the time. It’s called procrastination. But I’m going to beat myself up even further with a more blunt word: foolishness. Last year, I lost a friend who received a sudden diagnosis of cancer and died within three months. Even facing a Stage IV diagnosis, he and his wife were so caught up with reckoning and treatments that they never had The Talk. The day he died, she called me in tears because she found she really didn’t know how he would like to be remembered, what his favorite childhood memories were and asked me if he and I ever talked about those things – as well as his preferences for final disposition and funeral services. You know, The Talk. The talk that he should have had with his wife. And the talk that I never had with him either, as I regretfully told her. She felt lost, her heart-wrenching loss of her husband compounded further because she had no idea of how he wanted to be remembered. Sure, she could draw on their 20 years of marriage, but there were 40 years before that. So it’s high time I have The Talk with my Dad. Fortunately, we’re very close and I know many of his life stories, his passions and loves, the fact that his singular point of pride is that he raised seven children in an atmosphere of love and support and has lived to see how his grandchildren have been raised similarly, in large part because we all remembered how Dad and Mom did it. I guess you might say we have had the “pre-talk” of a lifetime. But there’s more. And I need to involve my brothers and sisters and step-mom (we missed the opportunity for The Talk with my mom who was taken abruptly many years ago). He’s not getting any younger…nor are we. His birthday is in a few weeks…what better time to hear his stories, share some laughs and memories. And it’s time that I sit down with my own kids and have My Talk of a Lifetime. My wife’s Talk of a Lifetime. Enough procrastination. Enough foolishness. But guess what has finally motivated me to take action? Have the Talk of a Lifetime®. Even working in the funeral industry for the past four years was not sufficient to place that bug in my ear that I need to have The Talk. I needed to be told in black-and-white. And that’s what we all need to continue to do with everyone we touch. It’s so important. After all, it’s the Talk of a Lifetime.
By Don Calhoun, CM
Monument Builders of North AmericaExperts say that communication is approximately 80% non-verbal. The reality is that what we say is not nearly as important has how we say it. The moment we walk into the house after a hard day at work, it is easy and extremely fast to ascertain if your spouse, or children are happy, mad, depressed or excited. When your love muffin says: “I’m fine”, it does not take a secret decoder ring to figure out their mood. All too often their non-verbal communication tells you that had best zip your upper lip and head for the fallout shelter! Empathy is the ability to understand, share and communicate the feelings of another. Feelings are an emotional state or reaction and are not verbal. Compassion, empathy and the capacity to love are much more difficult than one would think. From an early age, we are actually conditioned to hide our feelings, be strong, and not be vulnerable. Feelings are all too often evaluated as a sign of weakness in our culture. The important question to ask ourselves is what can we do to grow, develop and enhance in our capacity to show and demonstrate empathy? Based on common human observation we could easily conclude that either you have it or you don’t. Given the reality that the majority of empathic feelings are communicated by non-verbal behavior, it becomes nearly impossible to hide. For wisdom on the subject, we only need to look to the teachings every Sunday in church, or to the great philosophers in history. The main lesson is “we get what we give.” We give love to get love. We must trust others to gain their trust. We must be a caring, loving, understanding, and compassionate person to be empathic. The first step to developing stronger empathic skills is to start paying attention to others feelings and emotional states. The next step is learning how to better communicate that understanding. Have the Talk of a Lifetime® and listen with the intent to understand, and not to formulate an answer or solution. This requires that we are more open, receptive and vulnerable in our human interaction. We all want to matter in the world, to make a difference; especially among our family and friends. Remember that sometimes the best communication technique is silence, or a soft touch, or genuine eye contact. Whatever we do, we should not get hung up on figuring out just the perfect words to say in moments of heavy emotion. We will only make ourselves nervous and self-conscious, and then as a result say the absolute wrong thing. When that happens, we are an open book of un-feeling, non-empathic, non-compassionate and non-loving idiots. The goal should be about developing a genuine, honest connection with others, in the desire to improve the human condition. Dr. Stephen Covey called this interdependence. Jesus called it love your neighbor as yourself. John Lennon wrote the song “Imagine.” Personally, I just try to remember that the most precious gift that I can give any one, is my time. This present requires being present. Have the talk of a lifetime. It can make the difference of a lifetime.
By Barbara Kemmis, Executive Director
Cremation Association of North AmericaOne morning, my dad called me at work, which was a first. I was immediately concerned that bad news was coming, however it turned out my parents had made a resolution to “get their affairs in order.” They were starting the process of prearranging their funerals and updating all of their end-of-life documents. My dad’s plan was to have everything in order before I visited in a couple of months and was calling to confirm the funeral home he had chosen. The funeral home my parents chose is well respected in the community and displays the Cremation Association of North America (CANA) logo on its website and door. The crematory operators are all certified, which means they had gone to extra lengths in professional education. So I asked the President of the funeral home why he sought this designation for his business and staff, and what it means to the community he serves. He said, “Our affiliation is important to me and to the families we serve, because it demonstrates our commitment to the highest standards of integrity and professionalism.” When I visited my parents, we went to the bank and spent time reviewing documents – living wills and worksheets from the funeral home. Not surprisingly, my mom had planned a lovely funeral for herself at which her many friends from church and her social clubs, former students and others could gather together. My mom is a social creature known for her party planning. My dad’s worksheet simply stated, “Just cremate me.” He explained that he didn’t want us to be sad or mourn him. He didn’t want a big deal made about his passing. He would be in heaven and we would see him again when it was our time.
How many times have you had the same thought or a similar conversation with your friends or loved ones?My mom and I looked at each other and then looked away. I said what she couldn’t at that moment. “I love you, Dad, and I will mourn you and I will cry when you die. I need to be surrounded by family and your friends and former students. I need to hear about the practical jokes you pulled in the classroom and the stories of your leadership in the church and community. I want to respect your wishes, but I will mark your passing. I love you too much not to.” It wasn’t until I was on the plane heading home that I realized we had started the Talk of a Lifetime. I resolved at that moment to continue the conversation, because my father deserved more than “just cremate me.” After a recent death in the family my father raised the subject again. I hadn’t attended the funeral, but my father’s impressions weren’t positive. My dad is still a modest man, a faithful Christian who lives his values and counts his proudest achievement as having instilled those values in his children. It was through a mediocre memorial experience that he realized in order for those values to be reflected at his funeral, we needed to talk openly about how he wanted to be remembered. This wasn’t prideful, it would instead be his last act of faith. Using the wonderful Have the Talk of a Lifetime materials available on this website can help your family have the conversation. You won’t regret it. Barbara Kemmis is the executive director of the Cremation Association of North America located in Wheeling, Illinois.
Cherokee Casket CompanyOver the years, I have enjoyed reading many writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson. One of my favorite quotes of his is, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” I always follow that quote with “Enjoy the trip.” Ever since I was a young boy, I have always approached each day as a new and exciting adventure of discovery. Throughout my sixty-plus years, I have met many people and developed wonderful friendships. I have also had some interesting jobs, crazy hobbies, and wonderful travel ventures. All of those who know me know that I work hard, and I play hard. Enjoying every moment as if it were my last. I’m always telling those who will listen, “I live every day as if it were my last, because one of these days I will be right.” Everyone has a life journey worth sharing. But often times our lives are too full of busy schedules to take time to share our journeys. In the book The Magic Mountain, Thomas Mann wrote, “A man’s dying is more a survivor’s affair than his own.” As a minister, I have presided over many funerals. Too many times I’ve felt that the services were very similar when it came to music, order of service, and content. Every life is different. Every life is special. Every life is worth living and sharing. So every service of remembrance should be different, reflecting the life that is to be remembered. By sharing your life’s journey, it changes the “survivor’s affair” to a celebration of your life as you would want to be remembered. So how would you like to be remembered? Why not take a day and think of your life journey. Then share that journey. It may not be easy, but Have the Talk of a Lifetime can help get that thought process started. Remember it is your life’s journey, and it is worth sharing. Life is a journey, not a destination…Enjoy the trip!