Is there a best way to have a memorial service before my husband's death?

10 answers | Last updated: Nov 20, 2016
On a mission asked...

i'm thinking of having some sort of open-house or get together BEFORE my husband dies. I would like him to hear some fond memories people have of him or things he did that people will remember him for. No use having people he doesn't see often come to a funeral and say some of these nice things when he's dead. Do you have an opinion on this?


Expert Answers

Barbara Repa, a Caring.com senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in the Workplace (Nolo), now in its 10th edition.

This is a beautiful idea, and I applaud you for embracing it.

There are no absolute rights or wrongs here, but I have been to a few such events, and can offer only the advice that you already know: Make it a gathering that will have special meaning to your husband.

I recall one lovely tribute held for a hunter at a Moose Lodge -- complete with moose heads -- that was held for a hunter two weeks before he died of brain cancer. When the same site was used a couple years later for an environmentalist friend, it seemed like a jarringly bad fit.

The gathering will naturally become a good fit for your husband if you talk with him about his wishes and the guest list beforehand. Also think about serving his favorite foods, playing his favorite music, and asking a few of his friends and relatives from different walks of life to come ready to speak briefly. That will likely help loosen the lips of others who might want to say a few words. Or if it will be a smallish gathering, the invitation might ask each guest to come with a favorite memory to share.


Community Answers

Pamh answered...

I am an old Hospice nurse and can tell you that celebrating someone's life before they are gone makes perfect sense.  If they are able to express their wishes  they should tell you how they want it done.  People celebrate life differently and making assumptions is never good.  This a very therapuetic event for the patient and the family members if they are accepting of the pending death.  It might be hard for someone who may not want to admit that death is imminent but they might not be opposed if you explain that it is a celebration of life even though it will help all with closure.


Joyg answered...

I love the idea. Knowing my husband had Alzheimer's, we planned and held a big anniversary party where we all talked about his achievements. Each of our three children spoke first. Many old friends from his business were there and others actually flew in. Many took the podium and told funny stories and shared memories. It was wonderful. We have a DVD of it so we can remember and we have played it often over the years. It was the best idea we had. Now, he is not able to be at such a party and is in hospice. I am so thankful that we have these memories to continue to share.


Paticake answered...

Super helpful!!! I commend you on your idea to celebrate your husband's life and his adventures as well as have your husband hear what people will remember him for most....also, to to see the people he cares about the most before his time here ends. I hope someone does this for me when it's close to my time.


Lanap answered...

I know of a person that own company called "Grand Departures" & it is a plan your own "pre-death" celebration, as well as plan your own funeral, living celebration, etc. You can go on their web site "http://www.granddepartures.com" (omit the quotation marks) Good luck! I think it's a great idea!


Joyg answered...

Yes, by all means if he wants to enjoy one big party, go right ahead. Its a grand idea. (See another answer of mine I gave months ago with a couples picture attached.) Another great idea is to make a "box of memories" through www.voicequilt.com. We did this for my husband a few months before he died. You send out a special email, people call into a phone number and give your "code", and then they leave a voice message. These funny stories, old memories, from friends, family, company and sports buddies are all put on a CD. There are many choices from a plain plastic CD box to a special music box type that plays when you open the lid. We had 79 messages. The immediate family including young grandchildren called in more than once. Bob so enjoyed listening to the messages up until the day he died. Now it is a real treasure for the family to listen to from time to time. So yes, have a party!


Pamsc answered...

We are doing something like this for my husband's aunt in the form of a 100th birthday party. As well as her local friends, we have invited people such as the woman who does her hair and several people who used to drive her.

I wrote her more distant friends and asked them to send letters, and her school posted a notice of her birthday on their alumni web site.


Piver answered...

Hurrah! Yes, do it. You might consider spreading it over several days and asking people to drop in only a few at a time so he can really enjoy each one. And video-tape the whole thing - you probably have a relative or friend who would be delighted to do that as a gift. We attended a marvelous 80th birthday party of a friend whose family had given him 6 months to arrange his own party. He divided his life into 6 sections and invited 1 person from each to speak. There were lots of photos on bulletin boards. His family arrived, several from other countries. I realize you do not have time to do it this way but you might get some suggestions from this. Two months later the 80 year old was dead of cancer - I don't think he or anyone else knew it at the time. There was no need for a big funeral - he had just had a marvelous memorial service at which he had been present and in which he obviously delighted. I, personally, am eternally grateful that we had our 50th wedding anniversary party just months before my husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. The memories, photos, and video of that are great to have. God bless you. Piver


Doveark answered...

Yes! You (all) are absolutely right. And, my husband and I have just started a service business in our area to provide just the kind of thing you're talking about. It's called Farewell Celebrations, and can be seen at www.farewellcelebrations.com. From my own experience with funerals, wakes, etc., and as a Hospice volunteer, I've experienced the need for this type of life celebration - so that's what we will be doing.


Dave l answered...

Step 1 get comfortable having a celebration of life before the person is declared dead. Schedule after they declared as terminally ill.

Step 2 get comfortable with having a COL before terminal illness diagnosis. We all contracted a terminal illness the day we were born. It is as if we were dropped from an airplane on our birth day. We just don’t know how high it was.

We make sure every day is a celebration of life.