Helping People to Remember is Important . . .

When someone dies, he or she is often spoken about in hushed tones, almost as if we are afraid to acknowledge the fact of their passing. Sometimes, due to religious dictates, the dead are interred within twenty-four hours. This is positive in a sense, because it limits emotional suffering, but it is also a negative inasmuch as it curtails the time for actual mourning. Other decedents are embalmed and their remains are exhibited at elaborate wakes that often span many days. The Irish are famous for such wakes, as evidenced by the movie, Waking Ned Devine. Then, there is a third alternative: a memorial service held a week or more after the actual interment (my personal preference).

I recently had occasion to attend such a service for the wife of a friend. Admittedly, I was not particularly close to either, but I still wanted to show my respects. The memorial was held in a church, and was quite elaborate. It included much singing and liturgical recitation. It was a beautiful service. At one point, several family members and friends got up and spoke about their remembrances of the departed, and I learned a great deal about who the person we were memorializing really was. One thing that bothered me, however, was my inability to generate a mental picture of the man’s wife, although I knew I had liked her quite a bit. Forming a mental picture of her was all but impossible, and that was troubling.

In reading the program, however, I was pleased to learn that there was a reception scheduled after the service. It was my hope that perhaps there would be a picture or two on display that might satisfy my need for a visual image of my friend’s wife. To my surprise, I found there were not just a few pictures in evidence, but probably closer to two dozen on exhibit. As soon as I viewed the pictures, my memories were restored. I could not only see the woman, but I could hear her voice in my head, and feel her very essence. What a wonderful gift!

I have given strict instructions for how I wish to be cared for when I die. I don’t want a wake (no tears for me, please) and I don’t want a church service, either, since I’ve never been one for organized religion. My wishes are to be cremated and to have my ashes scattered on the waters of my beloved Beaverkill River in Upstate New York. Afterward, however, there should be a party—a big one—with lots of food and drink, and an opportunity for those who knew me to tell stories about me, whether they are favorable or not.

If you are contemplating your own mortality, or even making plans for that “final day,” I would suggest one thing. Make sure that there are lots of pictures on display at whatever kind of service you designate to be held. People need to see images of you when you were alive and happy—and still a vital force in their lives. With all the media at our disposal, it’s even possible to arrange a video presentation, which will allow others the chance to see us one last time as a living, breathing person. Anyway, that’s the way I want it. How about you?


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About AuthorJoePerroneJr

I am a former professional fly-fishing guide, and I write the Matt Davis Mystery Series, which presently consists of four books: As the Twig is Bent, Opening Day, Twice Bitten, and Broken Promises. The series is set in the real town of Roscoe, NY, in the Catskill Mountains, where I guided for ten years. I love fly fishing, movies, cooking (and eating), and music. To learn more about me and my writing, please visit my website at: http://www.joeperronejr.com.
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26 Responses to Helping People to Remember is Important . . .

  1. Very interesting post, Joe. When my husband died, I put together photos of him for a video and had a photo at the front of the church. He loved music and loved to make people laugh. So his memorial service was not heavy, but filled with great music and the minister kept it light, telling stories about Barry, whom he had never met. We then gathered at my sister’s house for food and drink. I have a large family and everyone had stories to tell. I love having photos of the deceased on tables as well as a video. It made me feel that Barry was really there with me. Our ashes will be buried together in our family cemetery down in south west Georgia. I have left directions for my own end of life process and my memorial service. I don’t want to be trouble for those remaining.

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  2. Priscilla Kooy says:

    Good blog Joe…. That’s the way I want it.!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Interesting thoughts presented by all here! I have had the privilege of spreading ashes for 8 individuals. Friends and family who wanted to share that moment came with me. Those who were not comfortable in participating, said their goodbyes in their own ways. To each one, I said my own private thank you to them for the love they shared with me. I then selected a song that meant something to them and quietly sang it, either while spreading the ashes or before. No matter how much we might be expecting the passing of someone or not expecting, death when it comes has very different reactions for each person left behind. Some heal quickly; some never heal from the sorrow. I have the legal documents completed that will allow me to be cremated. Where I live, you have to legally state your desire for cremation or it can’t be done. It is so important to have legal authority completed for everything that you wish to occur upon your passing. An interesting thing to me is on Facebook there are instructions to keep your Facebook after your passing, even where you can designate someone to be in charge of your Facebook, if you so desire. I thought about doing that until a friend said they could not handle that I am still their Facebook friend 5 years after I have passed. Many things to consider! Some want something physical to remember a person, while others just keep the love for and from the departed deep in their heart. I am the latter.

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  4. balroop2013 says:

    In our culture (North, East India) when a person who has lived a full life, (met his/her grandchildren) dies, there is a big feast for those who attend the memorial service and the highlight is the most popular sweets of the area, which are made in large quantity to celebrate the life well lived.

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  5. Bill Farkas says:

    When my father passed away last year we did not have a memorial service. My mother didn’t want to have one, and I didn’t go against her wishes. When she passed away 10 months later, we had a joint memorial for them a few weeks later, and we will have a second one when I take them back to Indiana so their ashes can be interred in the plot they purchased many years ago, near my mom’s parents. We did have pictures and other memorabilia at the first one – held at my church and attended by people mostly there to support me. Those same pictures and memorabilia will be on display at the second memorial service, which will be attended by friends of theirs and family, I suspect. I did get up and make some remarks at the first one, and will undoubtedly do so at the second, as well. I suspect that will be somewhat harder the second time around, because the crowd will be more inclined to tears, having been closer to my parents. My father, a veteran of both World War II and Korea, will receive military honors, and I imagine that will be a source of some strong emotion, as well,

    In some ways, it would have been easy to simply drive their ashes up to Indiana, have them interred, and come back home with no memorial service here or in Indiana. But I can’t imagine that doing things that way would have been as, for lack of a better word, satisfying in the long run. I feel it would also have been very selfish on my part to deny the friends and family who will be at the second memorial service a chance to say a proper goodbye. I know for a fact that his younger sister – my dad had two older sisters who proceeded him in death – will be comforted in some small way to say goodbye to both my parents.

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  6. Allie P. says:

    I’ve often said I could be a professional mourner in that I tear up at the smallest provocation during memorial services regardless of how well I knew the person. If you don’t want tears, tread cautiously with the video slideshow. I lost a friend a few years ago to brain cancer and the family put up a slideshow of her smiling face as way of sharing fun memories and showcasing her love for her children. Seeing her like that only reinforced the fact the cancer had taken her too young. I became Niagara Falls.

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  7. Al says:

    I totally agree with this. My wife’s aunt passed away a month or two ago and we held a memorial service for her just finding the pictures was totally amazing. We had no idea she been involved in so many amazing things as part of Massachusetts general hospital.

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  8. With you all the way on this up to the point of a party. May prefer to have individuals just enjoy a quiet moment in their own homes with a drink (coffee or draft beer – my favs and suggestions).

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  9. davidprosser says:

    Like you I’m not wanting a religious service Joe. I want to be cremated and have a few family and friends get up and say what they want while a few of my favourite records play. Afterwards they can all head for a local pub for a bite to eat and a natter about why they only meet up at funerals.
    Hugs

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    • So very true. I wonder how many friendships are rekindled at wakes and memorial services? 🙂

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    • For me its surely the iPad ! And after using the iPad 2 for a while I don’t think I can move to any other tablet except maybe the iPad 3 itself.. Even the new kindle did not impress me much except its price.. But on the whole, the has really impacted the computer market. A gadget which was only introduced a few years back comprises 20% of all computing devices..

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  10. Photos are a great idea, Joe. My sister even wrote her own obit for the newspapers, including a photo of her holding a whopper of a fish she’d caught. The entire piece gave an up-close and personal touch for family and friends.

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  11. allenrizzi says:

    In Italy all grave markers, including those cremated, have a photo attached to them. It is a way for people to remember the departed both mentally and physically. Photos are important. Me? I’m like you. Let the whiskey pour – one last round on me!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Helpful… Thanks, Joe. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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