Examples of a Memorial Service or Funeral
1) HUMANIST MEMORIAL WITH CANDLE LIGHTING AND READINGS
2) HUMANIST GRAVESIDE CEREMONY
3) HUMANIST MEMORIAL WITH TRIBUTE INCLUDED
4) SIMPLE HUMANIST MEMORIAL OR FUNERAL
1) HUMANIST MEMORIAL WITH CANDLE LIGHTING AND READINGS (Approx 1100 words)
ORDER OF SERVICE:
[About 20 minutes of appropriate music, live or recorded, to be played as family and friends gather.]
Let us be honest with death. Let us not pretend that it is less than it is. It is separation. It is sorrow. It is grief. But let us neither pretend that death is more than it is. It is not annihilation. As long as memory endures, his influence will be felt. It is not an end to love -- humanity's need for love from each of us is boundless. It is not an end to joy and laughter -- nothing would less honor one so vibrant than to make our lives drab in counterfeit respect! Let us be honest with death, for in that honesty we will understand him better and ourselves more deeply.
No one entering this world can ever escape sadness. Each in turn must bear burdens, though he or she be rich or poor, and in turn bid loved ones farewell as they set out upon life's ventures. Each one must suffer that sad farewell when loved one's embark on the last voyage, and each in turn must take that final journey. But for those who make this life a pledge to the human spirit, there comes the assurance of a victory that redeems life's pain.
[LIGHT CANDLE] Though we be but the feeble glow of a single flame, for the one who keeps it burning bravely to the end, death is not defeat. We light our candle today to honor the life of LOVED ONE.
We have gathered here in this place to acknowledge the death of LOVED ONE whom we have known and loved. When someone we have cared for dies, family and friends gather with sorrow in their hearts. At times when we must face death and loss, we need one another's company for understanding and support. Just to be together, to look into one another's faces, takes away some of our loneliness and draws our hearts together in the healing which we can offer one another. At such times, the ways that sustain us separately come together in a virtual harmony that acts across all creeds and assures us of the permanence of human goodness and hope. So we are gathered here today in grief and sorrow, but we have also gathered to celebrate a life. We have come together to give thanks we knew this vibrant person, to express our gratitude for the days and years we were able to share with him. We are here to remember and memorialize a good and caring life. By remembering the best of this person, by recalling some his finest qualities, by honoring the principles, values, and dreams which guided his life, some of LOVED ONE's enduring nobility flows into us, that we ourselves might be more noble in the days ahead. We are gathered for all these things. But our first task is to face, full and unafraid, the reality of this death and the grief and loss we feel.
Centuries ago the Roman philosopher Seneca wrote:
"In the presence of death, we must continue to sing the song of life. We must be able to accept death and go from its presence better able to bear our burdens and to lighten the load of others. Out of our sorrows should come understanding. Through our sorrows, we join with all of those before who have had to suffer and all of those who will yet have to do so. Let us not be gripped by the fear of death. If another day be added to our lives, let us joyfully receive it, but let us not anxiously depend on our tomorrows. Though we grieve the deaths of our loved ones, we accept them and hold on to our memories as precious gifts. Let us make the best of our loved ones while they are with us, and let us not bury our love with death."
No one person can sum up the life of another. Life is too precious to be passed over with mere words which ring empty. Rather it must remain as it is remembered by those who loved and watched and shared. For such memories are alive, unbounded by events of birth and death. And as living memories, we possess the greatest gift one person can give another. It is each of you, then, that the living memories of LOVED ONE's life are committed. To your hearts and minds go the enduring remembrances of this life. There will now be a period of silence. I ask that each of you use these moments to remember LOVED ONE as only you can. Let us enter this meditation with reverence and with love.
[After roughly 1-3 minutes . . . ]
Now, as your spirit moves you to do so, please share your living memories of LOVED ONE with the rest of his family and friends.
Some of you have selected several readings which are appropriate on this day as we acknowledge the death and celebrate the life of LOVED ONE. [Readings are shared.]
And finally, the Native American Ishi people of the Pacific Northwest, who imagined that their dead spoke to them saying "When I am dead, cry for me a little, think of me sometimes, but not too much. It is not good for you to allow your thoughts to dwell too long upon the dead. Think of me now and again as I was in life, at some moment which is pleasant to recall, but not for too long. Leave me in peace, as I shall too leave you in peace. While you live, let your thoughts be with the living."
It is done. We have bid loving farewell to LOVED ONE.
We are profoundly glad that LOVED ONE lived. We are glad that we saw his face and felt the glow of his friendship and love. We cherish the memory of his words and deeds and character. Carrying him thus in our hearts, let us now proceed from this place in comfort and in peace, assured that even in this time of loss and sorrow, life remains precious and good. May we also on this day rekindle in our hearts an appreciation for the gifts of life and other persons. Let us honor the life of LOVED ONE by living, ourselves, more nobly and loving in the days ahead. As you return to the routines of your lives, go in love, and may an abiding peace go with you.
Copyright 1999, Larry Reyka
2) HUMANIST GRAVESIDE CEREMONY (Approx 1100 words)
In the presence of life, we say no to death. In the presence of death, we say yes to life!
We come to this place, that we may give expression to the depth of loneliness and the longing-after-new-life, which the death of LOVED ONE has brought upon us. Thus do we share the sights and sounds of loss and comfort, of fear and courage, of bitterness and love. But especially of love - a love which can triumph over all pain, bringing us again to the font from which all meaning, beauty and truth eternally flows.
No person can sum up the life of another. Life is too precious to be passed over with mere words, which ring, empty. Rather, it must remain as it is remembered by those who loved and watched and shared. For such memories are alive, unbound by events of birth or death. And as living memories we possess the greatest gift one person can give to another.
It is customary for our species, when one we love dies, to bring together those whose lives were touched significantly by the life of the one who has died. This is the reason for a funeral or a memorial service.
While such services have been understood in many varying ways, the human function is to set an experiential marker at the end point of life to place a cairn at the conclusion of one human being's journey.
The Cairns along a wilderness trail are built of rocks of various shapes and sizes. The memorial cairn at the end of a life is also a composite, but an experiential one. It is made up of the memories, the thoughts and the feelings of all who are gathered to celebrate the life of the departed. It is a recollection of what was for a time together and is now scattered and scattering. Here is the one we knew. We think of how our lives were touched by him and what he meant and his memory continues to mean to us.
At the end of a life, we compose a symphony, an ordered creation whose notes and themes are the experiences of the people gathered. Themes dark and bright are sounded to recollect and order the impact of the life of the one who has died - honestly, fully, tenderly - and in the spirit of thanksgiving for the quality of
that lived life.
Our recollections of LOVED ONE should strive to evoke remembrance, thanksgiving, a sense of the uniqueness of his life, a sense of the privilege of having known him, a sense of loss, of sadness, a feeling of emptiness, of unsureness and a hint that the ending of his life is a rehearsal of what is to come for everyone of us, ultimately.
Transcending our memories of LOVED ONE should be a developing sense of trust in the slow, but steady, grace of healing and the affirmation that we live on and will live on, blessed by his life and by the memory of he who once was and is now gone, but who is and will be present in the world and in us in mysterious and
We should also be mindful that existence, ours included, is a continuum, ever changing, yet, in a real sense, not really. Elder Olson put it so well in "The Exegesis:"
Nothing is lost; be still; the universe is honest
Time, like the sea, gives all back in the end,
But only in its own way, on its own conditions:
Empires as grains of sand, force as coal,
Mountains as pebbles. Be still; be still, I say;
You were never the water, only a wave;
Not substance, but a form substance assumed.
And in the words of Langston Hughes:
Dear lovely Death
That taketh all things under wing -
Never to kill -
Only to change
Into some other thing
This suffering flesh,
To make it either more or less,
But not again the same -
Dear lovely Death,
Change is thy other name.
Finally, it is important to remember that, albeit death awaits all of us along the path of life, it is, nonetheless, part and parcel of life. For without it, there would be no life. And as stated by one far more eloquent than I:
Look to this day! For it is life, the very life of life.
In it's brief course lies all the verities and realities of
your existence: The bliss of growth, the glory of action,
the splendor of beauty;
For yesterday is but a dream, and tomorrow is only a
vision; but today, well lived, makes every yesterday a
dream of happiness and every tomorrow a vision of hope.
Look well, therefore, to this day!
In placing the ashes of LOVED ONE in this hallowed ground, we think again of all that our dear son, brother, companion and friend meant and means to us. We dedicate this simple plot, amid these natural surroundings, to every beautiful and precious memory associated with him.
We lay these ashes in that gentle earth which has been the chief support of humankind, since first they walked beneath the sun. To all human beings, to all living forms, the soil has ever provided the sustenance that is the staff of life. To that good earth we now commit the ashes of our friend and say with the poet Shelley:
He made one with Nature: there is heard.
His voice in all her music, from the moan.
Of thunder, to the song of night's sweet bird;
He is a presence to be felt and known.
In darkness and in light, from herb and stone…
He is a portion of the loveliness
Which once he made more lovely.
Now the work is left to us, the living, to carry forth the beauty and joy of that life which has been taken from us. Where we weep, LOVED ONE would have us laugh. Where we mourn, LOVED ONE would have us rejoice. But we know that he will forgive us our grief, for to grieve is to love, to love is to cherish, and to cherish is to give praise and thanksgiving for the life which has blessed us all.
To that life we pray courage and strength, that our frailty be forgiven, our sorrows redeemed, the wounds of our loss healed, in the sure knowledge that life moves forward and does not tarry with yesterday, and that the life before us beckons to greater glory as the only memorial that is fitting and just.
Let us depart in peace and look to the morning, assured that tomorrow the sun will rise again. Life gives and life takes away:
Blessed be life, above all, forever.
May the truth that makes us free, the hope that never dies and the love that casts out fear lead us forward together until the dayspring breaks, and the shadows flee away. Amen.
3) HUMANIST MEMORIAL WITH TRIBUTE INCLUDED (approx 1900 words)
I’d like to welcome everybody, friends and family to the Memorial Celebration of LOVED ONE. It is customary for our species regardless of cultural affiliation or religious tradition, that when a loved-one dies, those whose lives were touched significantly by the life of the one who has died gather together. At this time when we must face death and loss, we need one another's company for understanding and support. Just to be together, to look into one another's eyes, takes away some of our loneliness and draws our hearts together in the healing which we can offer each other. Today, LOVED ONE’s family and friends and community join together to celebrate his life.
At such times, the ways that sustain us separately come together in a most beautiful way that, despite our different creeds, assures us of the permanence of Human Goodness and Hope. So although we gather together with grief and sorrow on our minds we also gather together with love and caring to celebrate a life.
We have come together to give thanks that we knew this vibrant man, to express our gratitude for the days and years we were able to share with him. We are here to remember and memorialize a good and caring man. By remembering the best of LOVED ONE, by recalling some his finest qualities, by honoring the principles, values, and dreams, which guided his life, some of LOVED ONE's enduring quality flows into us, that we ourselves might live with more quality in our lives. We are here today for all these reasons.
LOVED ONE was a biology teacher, locomotive engineer, and traveler, Husband, Father and Brother, poker player, gardener and friend. He was a creative thinker with an imaginative mind that looked into the evening sky and plumbed the depths of the universe.
LOVED ONE was a pillar of strength to so many of the people he touched including those of us gathered here together to celebrate his life. He loved the mountains surrounding his Beulah home and enjoyed hiking and fishing and hunting. His most cherished times were those spent with friends and family. Some of us knew him well, some intimately and some of us knew him briefly, but we all shared with him the same joys of life, had much in common and were inspired by, cared for and loved many of the same things.
LOVED ONE’s illness and passing came as a surprise to many of us and this is in part to the fact that LOVED ONE did not want to trouble us with worries or fearful concerns. It was his wish that we, his beloved family and friends, would continue to live and enjoy our lives both during his challenge with cancer as well as after his passing. It is in his honor and in this spirit that we are gathered here together to celebrate LOVED ONE’s life specifically and Life in general. This is what we do; this is who we are.
LOVED ONE never knew a stranger and was a man with diverse friends. We all come from a wide array of religions and spiritual traditions through which we express our love of each other and our love of life in the ways that are most understood or meaningful to each of us. Each of us will mourn the loss of LOVED ONE in our own ways in our own time and the process for each of us will be different. The process of mourning and healing can be mysterious and difficult and yet it is vital to our health. It will take on different forms at different times, for as Humans, both tears and laughter are sacred.
There is Native American tale I would like to relate to you. It’s about a boy named Little Gopher who had his own special talent, a talent for painting and creating beautiful pictures. One day a voice inside spoke to him about his talent `keep it and one day you will paint a picture that is as pure as the colors in the evening sky.'
Little Gopher already had a blank white buckskin, but didn't have the right paints to paint the sunset. He kept searching, trying to achieve the right colors using berries and flowers. Every morning he mixed new paints in hopes that they wouldn't be dull and flat like the others, but to no avail.
One night a voice told him to go up on top of a hill next evening at sunset, saying `Because you have been faithful to your People and your true gift, you shall find the colors you are seeking.' Little Gopher went to the hill the next evening and, lo and behold, there are brushes full of paint the color of the sunset waiting there for him to paint his masterpiece.
Little Gopher painted his masterpiece and when he got done he walked back to his tent, leaving the brushes strewn across the hillside. In the morning the brushes had multiplied and turned into flowers.
LOVED ONE lived his own life on his own terms; the colors he sought to paint his life with were vibrant, not dull and flat like the lives of many. He accomplished the dreams he wanted to live. His mind was open and creative and he enjoyed contemplating the cosmos and found beauty in distant stars and galaxies and nebulae. He listened to that voice inside and followed his dreams; he stayed true to his people and found the colors he was seeking to paint his masterpiece.
LOVED ONE felt that there was a Life Force that was bigger than the temporary forms it inhabits. Our lives in these bodies live our own dreams and co-create the larger masterpiece by interacting with others living their lives and dreams. The masterpiece of LOVED ONE's lifetime was shared in part by each of us, and who knows what role he will continue to play in the great masterpiece.
Indian Paintbrush Seeds
Baskets of packets containing seeds of Indian Paintbrush are being passed around the circle. This was LOVED ONE's favorite flower, a wildflower with a long history of adaptation and survival throughout the history of this planet. This flower is representative of the Beauty of Nature and the power of Life or the Life Force to move through many changing forms to triumph over challenges and time. It is also a flower which lives in close connection to other plants and so also reminds us that, as Parker Palmer once put it “In community is our abundance.”
Seeds are created by a plant at the end of it’s life cycle to carry life over to the next generation of plant. They are a symbol of fertility and possibility, they are new life and potential. A seed is a powerful symbol, a rich metaphor for the continuity of life and hope for the future.
Please take these seeds with you and plant them when you feel the time is right to do so. In this way you will be celebrating LOVED ONE's love of this beautiful flower by spreading it and increasing it's presence and continued longevity on this planet. These seeds can be used in your own tradition or ceremony of remembrance and remind you that Love and Beauty and Life continue to sprout and grow, continues to expand and mature and continues to flower and fruit in our lives and in the world around us.
Celebrating the Living Memories / Invitation to Share
We are all connected and brought together by the power of our love, admiration and respect to honor LOVED ONE’s lifetime of living his dreams. We all have fond memories of him special moments, things he said to us that made us think a bit deeper or made us laugh, made us feel cared for, loved and appreciated. During his lifetime LOVED ONE celebrated the beauty he saw in each of us in his own special way.
In experiencing LOVED ONE's passing we must be honest with death. In our celebration of his life we do not pretend that it is less than it is. There is sorrow and there is grief but let us neither pretend that death is more than it is. It is not annihilation of LOVED ONE's spirit. As long as LOVED ONE's memory endures, his influence will be felt.
It is not an end to love. It is not an end to joy and laughter -- nothing would less honor a man so vibrant than to make our lives drab, dull and dour. Let us be honest with death, for in that honesty we will understand him better and ourselves more deeply.
Life is precious and LOVED ONE's life remains as remembered by those who loved him and shared his life. These memories are alive, unbounded by events of birth and death. As the keepers of these living memories, we each possess one of the greatest gifts one person can give to another at this time. It is within each of you that the living memories of LOVED ONE's life are committed. To your hearts and minds go the enduring remembrances of this life.
Moment of Silence
In the next few moments of silence I ask that each of you remember LOVED ONE as only you can. Perhaps merely a few words that describe him to hold for a moment, or to recall the moments of life you shared with LOVED ONE that bring those words to life.
As the spirit moves you I would invite you to share with us a story about LOVED ONE or a memory of a moment of your lifetime that you shared with him, or any living memory or words you would like to read to honor and celebrate him and his life.
[Living Memories are shared]
We are profoundly glad that LOVED ONE lived. We are glad that we had the privilege to see his face, to look into those beautiful blue eyes and feel the glow of his friendship and love. We cherish the memory of his words and deeds and character. Carrying the living memories of him in our hearts let us precede with our lives in comfort and in peace, assured that even in this time of loss and sorrow, life remains precious and good.
To grieve is to love; to love is to cherish, and to cherish is to give praise and thanksgiving for the gift of life which has blessed us all. Where we weep, LOVED ONE would have us laugh. Where we mourn, LOVED ONE would have us rejoice.
May we also on this day rekindle in our hearts an appreciation for the gifts of life and for the others in our lives, family, friends and all those we meet. Let us honor the life of LOVED ONE by living authentically and lovingly in the days ahead.
As we return to the routines of our lives, let us go in love and may an abiding peace go with you.
4) SIMPLE HUMANIST MEMORIAL OR FUNERAL (Aprrox 900 words)
We are gathered here today to pay tribute to the life of LOVED ONE, better known to you as LOVED ONE, and bid him/her a final farewell.
My name is Pastor Dave Ptasnik of The Humanist Assembly, I have been asked to conduct this ceremony in accordance with LOVED ONE’s attitude to life and death. Although this is not a religious service, there will be a period for reflection later on and you may wish to remember LOVED ONE in your own way.
Death is a very personal matter for those who know it in someone close to them. But we are all concerned, directly or indirectly, with the death of an individual, for we are all part of one human community and no one of us is independent and separate. Though some of the links are strong and some are tenuous, each of us is joined to all the others by links of kinship, love, friendship, by living in the same neighborhood or town or country, or simply by our own common humanity. No one who encountered LOVED ONE could fail to warm to this
witty and caring man/woman or admire the optimism and determination with which he/she tackled life.
We are now going to pause and remember LOVED ONE in our own ways reflecting on a life lived well and with much contentment and happiness (or: ‘few/no regrets’, or: ‘to their own satisfaction’).
(Ideally 2 to 4 minutes but can also be a minute’s silence)
No-one should be afraid of death itself; it is as natural as life itself. All that has life has a beginning and an end, and life exists in the time between birth and death. For those of us who believe that death brings the end of an individual’s existence, life’s significance lies in the experiences and satisfactions we achieve in that span of time; its permanence lies in the memories of those who knew us, and in any influence we have left behind. The love and laughter that filled LOVED ONE’s life will live in the memories of his/her family and friends much longer than the sadness caused by his/her leaving. It is now time for us to bid a final farewell to LOVED ONE and I would now ask you to stand…..
To everything there is a season,
And a time for every purpose on Earth,
A time to be born and a time to die.
For LOVED ONE, the easy going joker who loved life,
Death came after a life filled with a love for, and of, his/her family and friends.
In love and respect we have remembered LOVED ONE’s life,
His/her character and personality we commit to our memories,
His/her loves and ideals we commit to our hearts,
His/her body we send to its natural end,
To be returned to the great cycle of nature.
Our thoughts are now with LOVED ONE’s family, with ….. (insert names of close family relations and any special friends) On their behalf I would like to thank you all for coming here today. There will be refreshments at Z directly after the ceremony and the family hope to see you all there. The family would like to extend thanks to all who have sent cards or called. Your support has been much appreciated at this difficult time. There are thanks too for…..(insert names of those to be thanked, doctors, friends, neighbors, etc.) There will be a collection in aid of A charity and donations can be made at the reception or via B.
To finish I’d like to read a poem by an anonymous author entitled “You can Shed Tears”...…
You can shed tears that he/she is gone,
Or you can smile because he/she has lived.
You can close your eyes and pray that he’ll/she'll come back,
Or you can open your eyes and see all that he’s/she's left.
Your heart can be empty because you can't see him/her,
Or you can be full of love you shared.
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday,
Or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.
You can remember him/her and only that she's gone,
Or you can cherish his/her memory and let it live on.
You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back,
Or you can do what he’d/she'd want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on.
The separateness, the uniqueness of each human life is the basis of our grief in bereavement. Look through the whole world and there is no one like the LOVED ONE you have lost. But he/she still lives on in your memories and though no longer part of your lives LOVED ONE will always remain a part of your family, of your circle or of you as an individual, through the influence he/she has had on you and the special part he/she has played in your lives.
We have been remembering with love and gratitude a life that has ended. Let us now leave resolved that we who live on will use our lives more fully and to better purpose for having known LOVED ONE and having shared in his/her life.
CLOSE CURTAINS IF REQUIRED