CharlieMC (charliemc) wrote,
CharlieMC
charliemc

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Two Hour Memorial? Really?

Really, a two-hour Memorial is too long. I don't care who we're talking about, unless it's the Pope or a Head of State or Royalty -- and that would only be because of the whole Pomp and Circumstance aspect...

If you're going to speak, don't do it off-the-cuff. WRITE DOWN what you're going to say and try to stick to it as much as possible. Don't share 'several stories' about the deceased -- share one or two meaningful stories. Make allowances for all the others who will want to speak. Are you speaking first or second? If you set an example, others will generally follow suit. If you ramble on and on, others will feel free to do so, too. (Honestly, that's NOT the best way to remember the deceased...)

A good balance of history with recent events is meaningful for everyone present (keep it short). A good balance of warmth and humor is also meaningful (keep it SHORT). Did I say write down your words? (smile) I mean it. Then EDIT YOURSELF. You probably want about half of your first draft -- especially if you tend to be a long-winded person.

Minister (or whomever is serving in like-capacity)??? Hymns should be first and last verse, not all verses. Readings should be short. Prayers should be short. The sermon (or whatever you're calling it) should also be SHORT. You're 'in charge' of the proceedings, so keep control of the time and move people along if need be. It's okay to remind people to be brief and to give everyone else a chance to speak. Make sure in advance that the loved ones of the deceased are prepared, and if possible review their notes and offer advice ('keep it short').

People need closure, but there's a point when memorials become self-indulgent and inconsiderate. We've all been to our fair share of those types of services, I'm sure. But the FOCUS should be on the deceased -- and on warm and loving (and, yes, humorous) memories. We're not trying to write a book or tell the complete history of a long life, because there's no way that can be done even in a five hour memorial...

This goes back to LESS IS MORE. Don't get me wrong! I'm a talker (as anyone who knows me knows) -- but I controlled myself for the memorials of both my parents, using notes and keeping it to the point. When you're trying to give everyone a chance to speak who wants and/or needs to, you don't want to have to cut them off before they even start (which happened today). But that means everyone needs to restrain themselves. That starts with the family members and moves on from there... Generally speaking you can make a greater impact with LESS. This forces you to be selective about what you share...

An hour an a half is a reasonable length for a Memorial service. Yes, it's possible to get an idea of the time, even if you don't know for sure how many people will want to speak. Generally figure three minutes per each person, by the way -- that's more time than you might think. Trying writing out some words you might say in such a case -- then time yourself saying it out loud. (Remember, special events is what we do, so I know a little bit about what I'm saying here -- because a Memorial is just another type of special event).

PowerPoint presentations are a nice addition. I like the idea of letting it run before you get started (or during refreshments after the fact), simply because this means not adding to the overall length of the service. Photo collages are a nice touch, too, if you put them in an area where many can view them at once (it's now about the 'flow' of those attending).

I understand this can be more difficult when the person is older. They've lived a long life that you want to cover. Forget it. You can't ever cover the entire life of ANY person during a Memorial, no matter how old. Again, less is more -- be selective. Go for those things that either everybody knows about the person (the obvious), or things that few knew (surprises). People want to walk away saying, "That's the person I knew so well." Or "I didn't know that about her/him!"

There were many, many really GOOD moments today during the Memorial we attended. But it was out of control and way too long. It was redundant (people repeating the same things over and over). Some redundancy is to be expected, but it shouldn't come from the family, for the most part. If family members prepare notes in advance then share them, they can edit with that in mind! You can say, "You talk about THIS and I'll share THAT" -- and stick to it. (Balance is such a good thing in life...)

Saying 'goodbye' is a hard thing. A Memorial (or funeral) is usually the main chance to do this publicly, with family and friends present. Obviously we want to do it the best way we can. And we each have our own idea of what needs to happen. But making a service ridiculously long isn't the way to go. Even if we -- as a loved one -- find comfort in that, most attendees will NOT. And this isn't just about US. In fact, it's about the deceased, if we can keep the focus there...

Tags: 2012, august-2012, death, loss, loss-and-love, memorial, opinion
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