Memorial Service Etiquette
My husband is dying. We have hospice in the house and I would like to know about memorial service etiquette. What should I be doing? They predict he’ll be dead in 72 hours.
–LS, Montauk, NY
About memorial service etiquette. As you no doubt know, the purpose of a memorial service is to remember your husband in a manner in which you and his close family and friends knew him. It can also be a way to say goodbye to his physical presence. The memorial service may be an essential form of support for those who loved your husband and knew him well, and those who knew him not as well, but really liked him. Aside from nurturing and comforting family members and your husband's closest friends, you would orchestrate various practical elements: the burial, the obituary, the memorial service, the program or takeaway.
- That handout consists of the order of the service as well as photos, favorite poem, etc. of your husband, and, last but not least, the sympathy acknowledgment.
- A recently deceased friend, a former diplomat who lived by protocol, had his entire church service worked out beforehand spending "hundreds of hours," going over every detail of his funeral with the minister. She made that clear in her sermon.
- A series of tasks would presumably overwhelm anyone grieving and the more delegating you can do the better.
- The director, or staff, will give you the information you need to decide about how and where your husband's remains will be handled, and buried or stored.
- You will be asked to choose a vessel, either a coffin for the embalmed body or an urn in which to safe keep the cremated ashes. You will be prompted at every question to make it easier for you to come to a decision.
- You will even be asked about the particulars of your husband's life, because the funeral home releases a death announcement (template obituary) to local newspapers.
- Starting this now will possibly enable you to query your husband for his input.
- At the end of the obituary you will just need to add information as to the date, time, and place of the memorial service (if it is open to the public), as well as where to send a check "in lieu of flowers in honor the deceased."
- You want to be sure that the officiate knows many of the specifics about your husband in order for him/her to sound credible; they will help you plan the order of service and program.
- When there is a reception following the service, the officiate would invite the mourners to attend, "The family would like you to join them (following the service or after the private burial) at ...."
- For a memorial service you would have more time to have a program printed that reflects your aesthetic.
- It would include the order and names of the various speakers and readers, and could display a photo of your husband, say, on the front, and a photo of the two of you, or of your family, on the back, making it a takeaway remembrance.
- Depending on your style, a laminated photo of your husband can be enclosed with the sympathy acknowledgment.
- That second card can also include his date of birth, date of death, and even a quote from the scriptures, his favorite poem or song.