So last week I talked about ways to personalize your goodbye party so that you’ll be RECOGNIZED, for God’s sake. By which I don’t mean that people know that’s you in the casket, or that you set yourself up for rewards and accolades. I mean that your spirit and your personality are evident. It’s not just like the last funeral someone went to. It’s unique.
Let’s start with something easy. Prayer cards. The typical ones that funeral homes sell are fine, in fact there’s a comfort to their familiarity. I enjoy my collection. I use them as bookmarks — it’s nice to be reminded of someone I loved while getting a bookmarking need met.
One day I was loosely discussing a friend’s final goodbye with her (for way in the future), and she being a book lover of the highest order (and also just finished writing her first novel), loved the suggestion of just giving out bookmarks instead of the traditional prayer card. Voilà! Why go through the motions of a prayer card when you can go straight to the bookmark, and achieve the same end, only better — people remember you in the exact way they knew you — in this case, as someone who loved reading.
I’ve heard stories of people handing out recipe cards in lieu of prayer cards, and for the baker or cook, is that not delicious? I’ve heard of giving out packets of seeds for people who loved gardening.
Someone showed me a prayer card last year that had been made in advance by the woman who died. She was in her 90s, and it was a photo of her on a motorcycle, smiling big and waving, with the caption, “See you on the other side!” Now that is leaving your personality as a memento.
Easy examples for anyone in the arts are putting a piece of their art — be it a picture, a poem, lyrics, etc. — on a card.
There are people who are avid, dedicated, addicted do-ers of crossword puzzles. Put one on a card!
Mind you, if someone is just simply religious and wants an actual prayer on their prayer card (keeping it traditional), then that is perfectly fitting for them. (Though it’s worth considering using a person’s particular favorite prayer rather than the stock offering of the funeral home. Just a thought.) It would be as disturbing for a devout church-goer to not have a regular prayer card as it would be to have an avowed atheist have the Lord’s Prayer on a card. The point is always to do what best expresses the person who’s passed.
I just had the thought that in the awful instance of a child passing— if the child was old enough to have made some art, no matter how scribbly or “messy” it was, wouldn’t that be a touching keepsake to give out?
Not planning ahead of time usually precludes this kind of creativity. People are sad and upset, and everything needs to be decided so quickly. But I also think that people are generally afraid of seeming irreverent or disrespectful. As if when someone dies all their humanity is gone and we can no longer enjoy the full spectrum of the good, the bad, and the funny. We have to be proper, dour, and serious. Yet all that ‘respect’ often just translates into boring and devoid of life.
We need to put LIFE into our remembering and celebrating people!
So start with yourself. If a traditional prayer card doesn’t light you up, entertain what else you could give out as a little remembrance. The very idea of it should make you smile, knowing that your family and friends absolutely recognize you in it.
And nothing would make me happier than hearing your ideas on this! Comments, anyone?