Traditionally, funerals take place after death. Though they might have been planned during the deceased's lifetime, the actual ceremony, be it a religious service or secular celebration of life, will take place after their departure. With the recent injection of progressive thinking into funerals and funeral planning, a new concept is growing in popularity. It's called the living funeral or the 'life celebration'.
The living funeral is a religious or non-religious celebration focused on someone who is still alive. Often, it's the sudden onset of terminal illness, or the progression of a terminal illness towards its final stages, that prompts the decision. A well-planned living funeral is a great opportunity for someone who is approaching death to plan and control an event; it's also reassuring for friends and family to see that this control has been exercised.
Benefits of a living funeral
Whereas conventional funerals are, in many ways, for the survivors, a living funeral or celebration of life service is for everyone. Advocates of the living funeral comment on the following benefits (for the person being honoured and the guests alike):
Creating the right ambiance for a living funeral
Unlike weddings or conventional funerals, there are few established conventions for living funerals. Depending upon the person whose life is being celebrated, a living funeral can take many forms ranging from a traditionally structured celebration or service to a very casual (maybe even themed) event.
Celebration of life services can take place at a favourite church or other venue, or could be held at home. Ultimately, the decor and dressing of the event are less important than the quality of the time shared with those who attend.
And of course, with the dying person involved in the planning, it's a perfect event to enrich with their favourite food, drink, music, candles, songs, poetry, pets and possessions. Guests too will appreciate imaginative ways to celebrate the person's life and leave tributes for the family to cherish:
Variations on the living funeral
Sometimes, particularly where the dying person is very ill, family and friends might choose to arrange the celebration of life service. When this is the case, it might be sensitive to build the event around a long-planned family reunion, a birthday or some other family event. And if, as can be the case, the terminally ill person feels uncomfortable around others, a little bit of creative thinking will soon generate other ways to reconnect them with friends and family: how about videos, photos (collages, albums or digital photo frames), blogs and websites for starters...
It makes perfect sense
How often have you attended a funeral and heard someone say 'If only he or she had been here today...'? A living funeral gives everyone involved the opportunity to participate in the event. And of course, it doesn't preclude further celebrations (maybe a traditional burial or cremation, or one of the alternative celebrations) by mourners after the person has died.