Funerals and Memorials
After my son died we were tasked with pulling together a service in his memory. I was still in shock and reeling from his death and now I had to quickly pull together something to honor his short life. It is an awful thing to try to pull together services for your child.
We were working with a Unitarian Universalist church that provided some ideas. Nothing felt right. We did internet searches and came up empty. How do you pay respect to such a little life? We knew that we wanted to celebrate our Benny, we just didn’t know how to.
Let me preface this by saying that we are not religious, but spiritual. We really struggled with the common readings and hymns. In our minds it just seemed too mature for our little guy. We sat around with friends and family trying to figure out how to pull this all off.
Benny was just shy of 18 months when he died and there were so many children in his life. Our first thought was to create a celebration of life appropriate for children. Our own 4 year old daughter would be there, so we wanted to design a service that spoke to her as well. Here are a few things we have done over the years to honor and remember our son:
Our son was really in love with Mickey, so we decided at the end of the service to play the Hot Dog Dance and give him a good send off. The kids were dancing and it reminded us adults to smile through our tears. It’s hard, but think of what music your child loved and try to include that in the services.
Pictures and Videos
We spent a lot of time the week before pulling together pictures and a friend put together a slide show of our son’s life. Everyone was involved sharing pictures and their memories with us. We also asked people to bring any pictures they might have at home so that we could add it to our collection. Afterwards a friend pulled them all together digitally and created a ‘Benny hard drive’ for us.
We’ve had the kids write messages to our Benny on balloons and release them to him up in heaven. It was a very personal way for adults and children to be able to say good bye.
If you’re looking for a more environmentally friendly approach, we have also decorated stones in my son’s memory and sent them out into the world. The thought of kindness being spread in his memory is awesome! The stones and paint markers were purchased on Amazon.
We opted for plants at our sons service in place of flowers. The plants live long after the services are over and provide you something to care for in your child’s memory. At our son’s memorial this year we potted a large perennial and had everyone decorate the pot with permanent markers. We can then plan the perennial in our yard. We have also had the kids plant their own sunflowers and decorate the pots so they can bring them home and plant them in their own yards.
When our son died people left lots of flowers and stuffed animals and created a memorial on our street. It was beautiful and humbling to feel so much love from people that you don’t even know. The question was, what do we do with nearly 100 stuffed animals? Some people suggested donating them to a hospital or police department which was an excellent idea. We chose to allow each of the kids to pick a ‘Benny Bear’ for their child to remember him by. It was beautiful and amazing to know that these children would have a physical reminder of our son. Our daughter Darcy still sleeps with her Benny dog to this day.
Our first inspiration was to read from some children’s books. We were given the Invisible String by a friend and we loved how appropriate it was for our situation. We added a time during the service when the pastor invited all of the kids to come forward and he created a ‘circle time’ of sorts while reading from a picture book. It was a great way to involve the children and bring the service to their level. The pastor also read smaller passages from other books and we used quotes throughout the service. I have a few literature suggestions below.
Five years later I am still pulling together books and quotes. Here’s a few that I thought I would pass along that were age appropriate for my son that had passed and my daughter that was grieving him.
Winnie The Pooh – Who knew that silly old bear could be so wise? There are so many Pooh bear quotes that we have used to remember our son. Here are a few of my favorites…
The Velveteen Rabbit – There is so much wisdom in this book, especially the passage on ‘becoming real.’ It’s beautiful and we included quite a bit in my sons service.
The Invisible String – This is my go to grief book for kids. It was given to our daughter after her brother died and it’s a very simple way of explaining how we are all connected. This is the book that the pastor read during our son’s service.
Fletcher and the Falling Leaves– This book is great in that it is subtle and talks about the cycle of life through the seasons and how change is sometimes out of our control. It also happens to be my rainbow son’s name too.
A Hug From Heaven – We used this book this year at my son’s memorial. It is beautiful and is written from the perspective of the person that has died and how they want you to continue to live your life. Listening to my daughter read this brings a tear to my eye.