Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Doing a Unitarian Funeral Service: The Final Result

Three months ago, I led my grandmother's memorial service. Since she was Unitarian (and fairly secular, at that) and I am United Methodist, I was a little unsure of how to proceed, what readings to use, etc. Here is pretty much the final product, although we did add two traditional UU hymns that my aunt insisted on and that no one really sang. I don't remember what they were, so I kept them out of this. My grandmother had four daughters (all of whom were present), five grandchildren from her first marriage (two of whom were present; that would be me and my cousin who did a reading), three stepdaughters (one of whom was present), and four grandchildren from that marriage (one of whom was present).

A Celebration of the Life of __________
August 1, 2009
Gathering music

Greeting/Opening words (2 minutes) Rev. Wounded & Healing

Musical selection #1 (5 minutes)

Readings (10 minutes) Ms. Youngest Granddaughter
Mrs. Daughter #3
Mrs. Daughter #4
  • Life is Eternal by Bede Jarrett, O.P. (see below)
  • A Native American View of Death Anonymous (see below)
  • Two poems Written by Daughter #3
  • Wake by Langston Hughes

A Native American View of Death
I give you this one thought to keep...
I am with you still, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sunlight on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush,
I am the swift, uplifting rush of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not think of me as gone --
I am with you still, in each new dawn.
Life is Eternal
Life is eternal and Love is immortal and death is only a horizon, and a
horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight. ~ Fr Bede Jarrett, OP

By Langston Hughes
Tell all my mourners
To mourn in red --
Cause there ain't no sense
In my bein' dead.

Musical Selection #2 (five minutes)
Reflections and memories from loved ones (10 minutes)
  • Person #1
  • Person #2
  • Person #3
Meditation (two or three minutes) Rev. W & H

Musical selection #3 (five minutes)

Closing/Departing words (one minute) Rev. W & H
Bear witness to the love of God in this world, so that those to whom love in a stranger, may find in you most generous friends.

Departing music

A few notes/explanations:
The musical selections were Irish tunes and show tune medleys.
-People from my grandmother's church and community provided the reflections/memories.
-My meditation was fairly personal, with a universal application
-The service was very secular; the only time I mentioned God was in the benediction. I felt that benediction fit my grandmother too well to NOT do it.
-We had about 75 people at the service, and it was designed to be an informal, relaxed service. It was Florida in the summer, after all.
-The service lasted about 45 minutes, which was perfect. Not too long, but long enough to give tribute to 92 years of living.

If you have any questions or ever want advice, feel free to e-mail me!

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